Friday, March 27, 2020

Death with dignity, in Germany

Medically assisted suicide, controversial everywhere, has come to Germany.

The Lancet reports:
Germany overturns ban on assisted suicide
Rob Hyde
Published:March 07, 2020DOI:

"Germany's supreme court has lifted a ban on professionally assisted suicide in a landmark ruling. ...

"Following a campaign by doctors and terminally ill patients, Germany's supreme court has lifted a law which outlawed the provision of assisted-suicide services. These services could range from signing a prescription for a lethal overdose of sedatives, to providing consultation to terminally ill patients on how they could travel outside of Germany to end their lives legally.

"Speaking from Germany's Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Judge Andreas Voßkuhle said the 2015 law—paragraph 217 of the German Criminal Code—did not allow a person either “the right to a self-determined death” or “the freedom to take one's life and seek help doing so”. This law, he said, therefore violated the German constitution, and was now void.

"The association Sterbehilfe Deutschland e.V. (Assisted Suicide Germany) was among those campaigning against paragraph 217. Roger Kusch, head of the organisation and Hamburg's former senator for justice, said that the ruling by the supreme court marked “…a wonderful day for our association, for the association members and also for all interested citizens.” He said the ruling meant that no-one now has to suffer the pressure “…from churches and from other people, who believe they have to influence the entire population and the whole of society.”

"Others, however, are less jubilant. Frank Ulrich Montgomery is president of the Standing Committee of European Doctors, which represents national medical associations across Europe. He fears that the supreme court's ruling will mean the principle of doctors preserving life could be rendered obsolete.
"“Euthanasia” comes from the Greek word euthanatos (which means easy death), and means taking steps to end an individual's life to relieve suffering. In a medical context, euthanasia refers to a doctor using painless means to end a person's life, providing the patient and the patient's family agree. Assisted suicide, by contrast, refers to when a person is helped to kill themselves. Switzerland has eight right-to-die clinics and is the European country most often associated with euthanasia. However, euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal not only in Switzerland, but also in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, although each country varies on how it defines both terms. In Germany, the issue of the state legalising euthanasia is highly sensitive, especially given that the Nazis used the same term to describe the murder of hundreds of thousands of disabled people."

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