Debate on orientation – the Bundestag discusses euthanasia

How much self-determination should be regulated by law when it comes to one’s death? The Bundestag is discussing various proposals. (Kristina Trebkovich/Unsplash.com)

Controversial factual debate

Green party MP Konast explained that parliament could leave the situation unchanged. The question is whether you want it. In essence, Kunast explained, it is about self-determination. DUP MP Healing Blair confirmed that the criminal law regulation was “out of the question”. People wanted security by “allowing them to die when the time came.” These people should be treated with respect rather than the threat of punishment. SPD MP Lindh also campaigned for a new regulation outside the criminal code. CDU MP Hefling warned against an “unrestricted release” of euthanasia. No one who crossed the death line could review their decision. The representative of the Social Democratic Party, Castellucci, cautioned that the desire to commit suicide should not automatically equate to the desire to die.

Three cross-party proposals

Everyone envisages amending the drug law to allow for the first time dispensing of lethal drugs for the purpose of suicide. However, they formulate different terms of tax.

Commercial Assisted Suicide Law

A bill backed by more than 80 MPs from CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens, FDP and Left states that “commercial promotion of suicide” should be punished as a matter of principle.

Assisted commercial suicide should not be illegal if the person willing to commit suicide is “of legal age and able to understand”, has been examined at least twice by a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and has completed at least one counseling interview. There must be at least three months between test dates. According to the draft, there should be a “waiting period” of at least two weeks between the final investigation and the suicide.

The draft also states a new section 217a against “advertising of assisted suicide.” According to this, anyone who offers euthanasia “for their own financial benefit or in an extremely offensive manner” should be punished. This group’s bill is the only proposal formally submitted to the Bundestag so far.

Assisted Suicide Law

Another group is striving for an organization in which the right to legally decide to die is guaranteed. The application provides regulations outside the criminal law.

Specifically, the plan is to create a network of state-recognized counseling centers that will provide open information to those who are ready to die. Physicians should not be allowed to prescribe drugs for suicide, such as the pentobarbital sodium sleeping pill, for at least ten days after this consultation.

“A law to protect the right to self-determination of death”

A group led by the Green politicians Konst and Keul aims for a more liberal organisation. According to this, clinicians should be able to prescribe medication for suicide if those who wish to die are in a medical emergency associated with severe suffering, especially severe pain.

But according to the project, it must be ascertained from a medical point of view “that it is a foreseeable desire that is no longer subject to change.” In addition, another doctor must confirm that the prerequisite for prescribing a lethal drug has been fulfilled.

Why is new regulation necessary?

At the beginning of 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the ban on “commercial euthanasia”, which has been in place since 2015, illegal because it violated the “right of an individual to die of his own volition”. In this context, “practical” means that the assistance is “designed to be repeated”, so initially it has nothing to do with money.
In 2020, palliative care physician Matthias Thun was one of the plaintiffs who defended themselves against Section 217 before the Federal Constitutional Court. This paragraph threatens doctors with imprisonment if they indirectly assist patients with suicide. Thöns said on Deutschlandfunk that the legal position on euthanasia criminalizes normal medical work. Even with the use of strong painkillers, he risks prosecution. At the moment, seriously ill people are almost “forced to live”.
Also called Thöns’ colleague, Jian D. Boracio, to the care of the end of life. Boracio also said on the Deutschlandfunk website that euthanasia should be allowed for people who have suffered severely at the end of their lives. There is also a risk that unaccompanied suicide will affect innocent bystanders.

When will that be determined?

Since the Federal Constitutional Court ruling, euthanasia has once again gone unpunished and is now possible without any state regulation. The Bundestag sees the need to act here. After the orientation discussion, the drafts are discussed on the first reading before the summer recess. Sessions will follow after the holiday, and a decision can be made in October.

Deutschlandfunk Kultur presents a radio and documentary play on euthanasia.

This message was broadcast on Deutschlandfunk on May 19, 2022.

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