There are few emotional debates like this one: Can someone who wants to end their life prematurely be supported in this project?
Yes, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe explained in an unprecedented ruling two years ago. It repealed the ban on assisted suicide and repealed the passage of Article 217 of the Criminal Code, which states that “commercial promotion of suicide” is a punishable offense.
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The constitutional judges justified this by the fact that the common right of personality also includes the right to die of free will. This also includes seeking help from third parties.
No new regulation was passed at the time, and the Bundestag is still debating the future of euthanasia. After MPs were unable to reach a conclusion in the last legislative period, Parliament once again dealt with the question of whether public euthanasia needs guidance.
The regulation at that time was only passed in 2015, and since then euthanasia has never been punished again and was possible without any state regulation.
Above all, people who fear unbearable suffering before death, loss of self-determination or being at the mercy of so-called medical devices see euthanasia as an opportunity to end their lives of their own free will.
Three new drafts for discussion
Three new drafts are under discussion: A bill backed by more than 80 members of Parliament calls for “commercial promotion of suicide” to be punished in principle, that is, it is based on the just-deleted paragraph.
“Effective protection of life requires the criminalization of assisted suicide in order to put an end to exploitation,” CDU MP Ansgar Haveling said of the bill. In countries without barriers, the suicide rate is much higher.
However, the regulation provides for exceptions. Commercial assisted 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 open consultation.
There must be at least three months between appointments, and the final examination and suicide should be interrupted by a two-week ‘waiting period’.
“No one in this country should feel superfluous.”
The draft also calls for a new section 217a against “advertising of assisted suicide.” There is also an assisted suicide law in the room, which must legally guarantee the right to die voluntarily.
The application provides regulations outside the criminal law. Instead, the plan is to create a network of state-approved counseling centers that will provide de-identified information to those who are ready to die.
“As it is true to support assisted suicide, it is equally important not to view it as normal. “No one in this country feels superfluous,” explained Lars Castellucci, a member of the Social Democratic Party of the Bundestag. We acknowledge the will to die, but the same goes for upholding the will to live as long as possible and to the best of our ability.”
Often, the desire to commit suicide is not caused by the will to die, but by the desire not to live under the circumstances given at that moment.
“In the first place, we should show the possibilities and help in life.”
Three designs allow lethal agents to be delivered
Physicians should be allowed to prescribe a drug for suicide no later than ten days after the consultation if they assume “the permanence and inward constancy of the desire to die”.
“We should treat people who no longer want to live with respect, rather than threatening them with fines and moral uplifting,” said Catherine Henning Baller, a spokeswoman for legal policy for the Free Democratic Party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Humanity demands that people not be left alone with their desire to die. It is up to the doctors to decide, not the authorities.
A group led by Green Party politicians Rinat Konst and Katja Koll aims for a more liberal organisation. This approach in which doctors can prescribe a drug for suicide is followed when a person wishing to die is in a medical emergency accompanied by great suffering, especially severe pain.
“In any case, we must not make it too difficult for ourselves – through the penal code – and not make it too easy for ourselves. Of course we do not have the right to set material standards. We have to open the way in a reasonable way. This method should mean protection and transparency regulations , the reliability of consulting centers and associations and reasonable intervals between two consultations, as well as information about working methods,” says Kunst of her group draft.
All three proposals have in common that they envisage amending the Drug Act to allow the delivery of suicide-killing drugs.
Eugene Brisch, president of the Patient Protection Foundation, is disappointed and criticizes all three bills as misleading.
“None of the proposals put the Federal Constitutional Court ruling into effect,” says Birch. Suicide methods and support offers are available.
“If Parliament wants to regulate something, it should focus on the actions of the euthanasia attorney general.”