Germany Overturns Its Assisted Suicide Law

Court finds ban on professionally assisted suicide is unconstitutional
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 26, 2020 9:30 AM CST
Germany Overturns Its Assisted Suicide Law
Andreas Vo?kuhle, Chairman of the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court, sets up his judge's cap he announces the ruling on the ban of assisted suicide in Karlsruhe, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.   (Uli Deck/dpa via AP)

"Commercial promotion of assisted suicide" is no longer a criminal offense in Germany. The country's top court on Wednesday determined that a 2015 law that banned professionally assisted suicide is unconstitutional. Judge Andreas Vosskuhle found that the ban violates a citizen's right to determine their own death by restricting their ability to request a third party for assistance, reports the AP. The law in 2015 allowed assisted suicide for "altruistic motives," but forbade people from offering it to someone else "on business terms," with the threat of up to three years in jail. The effect was for those involved in providing suicide assistance to widely curtail their work. Indeed, one medical ethics expert told the BBC she is unaware of any doctor who has participated in an assisted suicide since.

Active assistance—physically taking a patient's life for them—is banned in Germany, but passive help, such as providing deadly medication for them to take themselves has been a legal gray area. The issue is a particularly sensitive topic in a country where the last time euthanasia was part of public policy it was used by the Nazis to kill more than 200,000 people with physical and mental disabilities. The 2015 law seeking to narrow the regulations was a middle-of-the-road proposal that received cross party support. The four proposals discussed at that time ranged from fully permitting the practice so long as it is not for profit to a near-complete ban. It will now be up to the government whether to re-open the debate to work on a measure in line with the court's ruling.

(Read more assisted suicide stories.)

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