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Compassion Opposed by Religious Right in Alaska

Fall 2000

The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments Nov. 14 in Sampson v. State of Alaska. The arguments were broadcast on Gavel to Gavel, a statewide public cable channel.

Compassion in Dying Federation continues to press a claim under the Alaska State constitution on behalf of a class of terminally ill individuals, represented by two named plaintiffs, Kevin Sampson and Jane Doe.

Sampson and a woman with cancer who filed as "Jane Doe" to protect her privacy, claim that Alaska law prohibiting an assisted death violates the constitutional rights of privacy, liberty and equal protection. Sampson, a retired auditor for the Alaska Department of Revenue who served in the U.S. Air Force and graduated from the University of Alaska, was diagnosed with HIV in 1985. Jane Doe was a physician whose breast cancer was diagnosed in 1977. The case goes forward as a class action. Both plaintiffs have died.

The lawsuit challenges Alaska State law that prohibits a mentally competent, terminally ill adult from requesting medication to hasten death in a humane and peaceful manner. A lower court's ruling favoring the state led to the appeal before the Alaska Supreme Court. The case was originally filed in Anchorage at the Alaska Superior Court Dec. 15, 1998. Judge Eric T. Sanders from the Superior Court heard arguments Aug. 9, 1999.

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On April 13, 2000, the Court received briefs filed by those opposing our claim. In addition to the state of Alaska, these include Focus on the Family, a California religious organization founded by James Dobson; Family Research Council, founded by Gary Bauer; the Alaska Catholic Conference, and an Oregon opposition group called Physicians for Compassionate Care.

Their counsel includes James Bopp, an Indiana Right-to-Life lawyer well known for his work keeping the Oregon Death with Dignity Act enjoined for three years. A Ninth Circuit judge called his arguments "baseless hypothetical fantasy."

Compassion's brief rebuts these arguments and highlights real experience with assisted dying that disputes the opposition.




  
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This article was provided by Compassion in Dying. It is a part of the publication Compassion in Dying.
 
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