By David Edwards
The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the state’s law banning people from advertising assistance for suicides violates free speech rights.
The court unanimously struck down the 1994 law on the grounds that it “restricts speech in violation of the free speech clauses” found in the U.S. and Georgia constitutions, according to The Associated Press.
In his majority opinion, Justice Hugh Thompson said that lawmakers could have chosen an outright ban, but instead chose to only restrict advertisements for suicide assistance.
“The State has failed to provide any explanation or evidence as to why a public advertisement or offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity is sufficiently problematic to justify an intrusion on protected speech rights,” Thompson wrote.
Prosecutors in Forsyth, Georgia have said that if the law was struck down, charges against four members of the Final Exit Network would also have to be dismissed.
A 2010 grand jury indicted former president Ted Goodwin, anaesthesiologist Lawrence Egbert, regional coordinator Nicholas Alex Sheridan, and group member Claire Blehr for violating the assisted-suicide law, racketeering and tampering with evidence.
“Obviously, I’m relieved as are the other co-defendants,” Goodwin explained Monday. “This is a bittersweet victory, because I’m saddened by what we’ve been put through. … I’m also sad for all the people who would have benefited from our compassionate presence at their life’s bitter end over the last three years.”