How self-determined is life allowed to end? And to what extent should the state be able to have a say in this decision? This elementary question will be discussed in the Bundestag on Friday. In February 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe overturned the regulation on euthanasia that had been in force until then. Seriously ill patients, euthanasia associations and doctors had sued against the ban on “commercial promotion of suicide” – and were right.

The abolition of the passage left a legal loophole that should be filled as soon as possible. At least that’s the view of politics. Party books play no role in the new regulation: in the past few months, bills have been drawn up in three cross-party groups.

The strictest of the drafts stipulates that the “commercial promotion of suicide” should generally be punishable. As before the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court, there should be up to three years in prison for commercial euthanasia.

It should only be not illegal if the person willing to commit suicide is “of legal age and capable of understanding”, has been examined at least twice by a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy and has completed at least one open-ended consultation.

In addition, a period of three months must be observed to prove that there is a self-determined wish to die. Another group is striving for a regulation outside of criminal law. The proposal, initiated by the FDP politician Katrin Helling-Plahr, provides for the creation of a Germany-wide network of counseling centers to accompany people who are willing to die on their way.

In order to ensure that the decision was made autonomously, a period of ten days after the consultation should be sufficient. A group led by Green politician Renate Künast wants a differentiation to be made as to whether those affected are dying because of a serious illness or for other reasons.

For the former, two physicians must independently testify clearly that there is an unchanging will to die. After two weeks, the person should then be given an anesthetic. The group would like to regulate access via a separate law.

In their proposal, MEPs demand that people who express their wish to die for other reasons should have long-term documentation of their will to commit suicide. Outside of Parliament, all three drafts find little support, patient advocates reject the proposals for a new regulation.

“Suicides and offers of support are available,” says Eugen Brysch, board member of the German Patient Protection Foundation. “An additional legal regulation of euthanasia is not absolutely necessary in Germany.” The state has to maintain autonomy. “It is forbidden to link the right to assisted suicide to criteria of suffering.”

Heiner Melching, the managing director of the German Society for Palliative Medicine, was also extremely critical in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. “We played through the drafts with doctors and they all had endless stomachaches. They are not practical.” Doctors are not just service providers.

It is more important than regulating euthanasia to provide more information about the possibilities of palliative medicine and patient rights. “We can relieve pain, sedate people. And even now a doctor can help with suicide. The professional ban on physicians assisting with suicide has been lifted. But this requires a relationship of trust and not a conversation with a total stranger.”

Robert Roßbruch, President of the German Society for Human Dying, generally rejects an obligation to provide advice. In its judgment of February 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court expressly granted every individual the right to a responsible and self-determined suicide and also the right to seek help for this.

“Therefore, we do not need advice for those affected, but only an obligation to provide information from the suicide attendant.” The German Hospice and Palliative Care Association (DHPV) and the German Society for Suicide Prevention (DGS) called for a new law to prevent suicide on Thursday in Berlin to strengthen.

“Studies have shown that financial problems, loneliness and the fear of being a burden to others are the main factors leading to suicide. It is important to work on that first and foremost, not on state-run assisted suicide,” said DHPV chairman Winfried Hardinghaus.