Sampson v. Alaska
This 1998 case involved two terminally ill Alaskans: Kevin Sampson and “Jane Doe”. Sampson was an HIV/AIDS patient in the terminal phase of his disease. “Jane Doe” was diagnosed in the end stages of bone and liver cancer. Both individuals were considered mentally competent, terminally ill adults.
Sampson and Doe sued for an order declaring their physicians exempt from Alaska’s manslaughter statute for the purpose of assisting their suicides. They argued that Alaska’s tradition of respect for individual freedom and personal autonomy should encompass physician-assisted suicide.
The superior court entered summary judgment against Sampson and Doe, and they appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. They concluded that the Alaska Constitution’s guarantees of privacy and liberty do not afford terminally ill patients the right to a physician’s assistance in committing suicide.