The legal boundaries of euthanasia have been under discussion for years – how does the Bundestag resolve the tension between self-determination and the protection of life?
Berlin – More than two years after the landmark judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundestag is dealing on Friday with concrete proposals to regulate the issue of euthanasia in Germany. In the first reading, three cross-party bills will be introduced to the parliamentary debates.
The background to this is the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, which in 2020 lifted the ban on commercial euthanasia, which had been in force since 2015, because it violated the individual’s right to self-determination. “Business” has nothing to do with money, but means “designed to be repeated”.
In mid-May, the Bundestag had already dealt with this topic in a fundamental debate without concrete bills. Three of Parliament’s initiatives concern rules on possible organized bids, including advisory obligations and waiting periods. To this end, the deliberations of the commission should first take place:
- According to a draft by a group of MEPs around Lars Castellucci (SPD) and Ansgar Heveling (CDU), promoting suicide commercially should be considered a crime – but not for adults. In order to establish a voluntary decision to commit suicide without internal or external pressure, two examinations by a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy should be carried out three months apart and a comprehensive open consultation.
- The group around Katrin Helling-Plahr (FDP) and Petra Sitte (left) propose a new regulation outside of criminal law. It should “legally secure the right to self-determination of death and make it clear that helping suicide is possible with impunity,” says the draft. A wide range of advisory services is planned. Doctors should then be able to prescribe medications for the purpose of suicide if they accept “a certain persistence and the inner firmness of a death wish.” As a rule, at least ten days should pass from the consultation.
- A group led by Renate Künast (Greens) and Nina Scheer (SPD) presents a draft “law protecting the right to self-determination of death”. It aims to ensure that those affected by the disease have safe access to certain drugs. A mandatory consultation should be carried out before submitting the application. A distinction needs to be made by motive: For people in “current medical emergencies”, two doctors would have to confirm the requirements at two-week intervals. If you want to die for other reasons, there should be higher requirements to prove the durability of the decision. For this purpose, the state authority should check the requirements and then issue an annual certificate of access to narcotic drugs.
Patient attorneys dissatisfied
The German Patient Protection Foundation found all three projects insufficient. If the Bundestag wants to regulate organized assisted suicide, the self-determination of those who wish to die must be strengthened and protection against heteronomy guaranteed. “None of the three bills meet these requirements,” said Eugen Brysch, member of the board of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”.
The planned compulsory consultation has passed with reality. For example, medical and nursing offers are currently not sufficient to strengthen self-determination and rule out heteronomy. Psychotherapy and dignity are also often unavailable for many terminally ill, full of life or mentally ill people.
Brysch’s demand: The Bundestag must ban assisted suicide for money as a minimum consensus. Moreover, the actions of the individual euthanasia practitioner should be at the center of criminal law attention. “His actions require the highest level of knowledge and must assure without a doubt that suicide is desirable in a self-determined manner.”