Thursday, June 15, 2023

German Bundestag debate three assisted suicide bills

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

What the euthanasia bills are about, by David Sadler, was published by Globe Echo on June 13, 2023. This article, about the German assisted suicide debates, provides an outline for the three assisted suicide bills.

In February 2020, Germany's high court overturned the assisted suicide law by creating a "right to a self-determined death" In February, 2022 a German court in Münster upheld a restriction to assisted suicide by deciding that people do not have the right to purchase lethal drugs for suicide.

Section 217 of the German criminal codewhich prohibits assisted suicide, was changed by the February 2020 German Supreme Court decision recognizing a right to self-determined death, which included the freedom to take one’s own life.

Section 216 of the German criminal code prohibits euthanasia "killing on request" and was not changed by the German Supreme Court decision.

Three assisted suicide proposals are being debated.

Sadler, reporting for the Globe Echo explains the following proposals:

First proposal

The draft law by the Castellucci group wants to regulate assisted suicide through criminal law and provides for a general ban on commercial, i.e. organized, euthanasia. Violations can be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine.

Commercial euthanasia should not be unlawful if certain counseling obligations and waiting times have been met. In concrete terms, those who wish to die should usually undergo at least two examinations by specialists in psychiatry or psychotherapy and at least one further consultation. In addition, a ban on advertising for suicide assistance is planned. According to reports from the editorial network Germany, this draft law was signed by 111 MPs.

Second proposal

The draft law by the group around FDP politician Helling-Plahr provides for the establishment of a network of state-approved counseling centers that are intended to inform those who are willing to die in an open-ended manner. The central point is an amendment to the Narcotics Act. Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medication for suicide no earlier than ten days after the consultation.

It should also be stipulated that third parties have the right to provide assistance to people who commit suicide and to accompany them until death occurs. In addition, no one should be prohibited from providing this assistance or support on the basis of his or her professional affiliation. This draft has apparently had 69 supporters so far.

Third proposal

The group around the Green politician Renate Künast has proposed a “law to protect the right to self-determined dying”. A distinction is made between those who are willing to die in a medical emergency and those who are not in a medical emergency.

In the first case, doctors should be responsible for both the prescription and the advice. In the case of those who wish to die who are not in a medical emergency, those affected should submit an application to an office to be determined by the respective state. Another prerequisite is, among other things, two consultations in a state-approved consultation center.

The draft also provides for regulations for the work of aid providers, for example for the delivery of deadly drugs. A license is required for service providers. In addition, anyone who provides incorrect or incomplete information in order to obtain a certificate for dispensing the narcotics for others or for misuse for criminal offenses is to be punished with imprisonment for up to five years. Among other things, “grossly offensive” advertising should be punishable as an administrative offence. Apparently 45 supporters have signed this draft so far.

Eugen Brysch
Sadler reports that Eugen Brysch, Chairperson of the Patient Protection Foundatio, is concerned that Germany already has 10,000 suicide deaths per year which would be added to by "organized suicides." Brysch believes that psychotherapy and end-of-life care is lacking, and suicide prevention is far too often neglected in Germany.

The German Society for Human Dying, a euthanasia group, wants a permissive option for assisted suicide and they don't support mandatory counselling.

Germany needs to examine what has happened in Canada and not follow Canada's lead. Canada legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016. In a few short years, the "safeguards" have been essentially removed, and the reasons for killing people have exponentially expanded, to now include  euthanasia for mental illness.

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