GERMANY, February 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Germany’s highest court has overturned a 2015 law that had banned assisted suicide for “business” motives while allowing the practice for “altruistic” reasons.
The move appears to be a significant development in opening the way for legislation that will lead to an expansion of assisted suicide in Germany, with the court reportedly finding that individuals have a right to “self-determined” suicide, which includes the freedom to take one's own life and to enlist assistance in doing so from third parties.
The ruling comes as a result of challenges made against the law for making the “commercial promotion of assisted suicide” a criminal offense. The decision is being reported as opening the way to legislation that will allow doctors to both counsel patients about assisted suicide and to provide them with lethal drugs to end their lives.
The BBC reports that the court declared the law banning professionally assisted suicide to be unconstitutional and said that while parliament could pass laws on preventing suicide and increasing palliative care, it was not entitled to affect the impunity of assisted suicide.
The 2015 law is reported to have prevented individuals and organizations in Germany who until then had professionally facilitated assisted suicides from continuing the practice. One media report claims that “doctors and staff working in hospices became too scared to even consult patients on this possibility.”
The BBC report cites a medical ethics expert who claims that she knew of no doctor in Germany who had helped with assisted suicide in the past five years, because of the 2015 clause in the criminal code. With professionals barred from the practice, Germans wishing for assistance in killing themselves have had to ask family or friends, or travel to countries such as Switzerland where so-called suicide clinics operate.
Until 2015 there was considered to be a legislative void in Germany around assisted suicide and euthanasia, which is an especially controversial issue in the country because of its historic connection to the Nazis.
During the operation of their clandestine euthanasia program, begun as a eugenic measure in 1939, the Nazis systematically murdered an estimated 200,000 mentally and physically disabled children and adults in institutions in Germany and its territories.
In fact, Germans avoid the word “euthanasia,” according to the Guardian, instead preferring to make distinctions between “assisted suicide” and “active assisted suicide.”
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said in 2015 that the move to allow assisted suicide in Germany for “altruistic reasons” had “opened the door” to assisted suicide and predicted that it would be challenged by campaigners seeking more liberal laws. Schadenberg said that the law criminalizing commercial assisted suicide was the German government effectively saying: “if you break our rules, that’s a criminal act,” but noted that they had in fact “legalized assisted suicide per se.”
Last week Portugal’s parliament voted to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide, taking a significant step towards legalizing the state-assisted killing of its citizens.
Assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is now legal in Canada, 10 U.S. jurisdictions, 2 Australian states, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Colombia.
In Belgium, children can now be euthanized. In the Netherlands, a doctor who forcibly euthanized an elderly woman by first drugging her coffee and then having her relatives hold her down was determined by a government panel to have “acted in good faith.” A court subsequently ruled the doctor had acted in the patient’s best interests.