Few debates are as emotional as this one: Can someone who wants to end their life prematurely be supported in this project?
Yes, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe made it clear in a groundbreaking judgment two years ago. It had overturned the ban on assisted suicide and nullified the passage of Section 217 of the Criminal Code, according to which the “commercial promotion of suicide” was made a punishable offence.
The constitutional judges justified this with the fact that the general right of personality also includes a right to self-determined death. This also includes enlisting the help of third parties.
No new regulation had been passed at the time, and the Bundestag is still discussing the future of euthanasia. After the members of parliament had not come to a conclusion in the last legislative period, on Wednesday parliament again dealt with the question of whether guidelines for general euthanasia are needed.
The regulation at that time was only passed in 2015, since then euthanasia has been unpunished again and possible without any state regulation.
Above all, people who are afraid of suffering unbearably before death, of losing their self-determination or of 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 are up for debate: A draft law supported by more than 80 members of parliament advocates that the “commercial promotion of suicide” should be punishable as a matter of principle, ie it is based on the passage that has just been deleted.
“The effective protection of life requires that suicide assistance be punished in order to put a stop to profiteering,” said CDU MP Ansgar Haveling on the draft. In countries where there are no 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 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.
There should be at least three months between the appointments, the final examination and the suicide should be interrupted by a “waiting period” of two weeks.
The draft also seeks a new paragraph 217a against “advertising for assisted suicide”. There is also a suicide assistance law in the room, with which the right to a self-determined death should be legally secured.
The application provides for a regulation outside of criminal law. Instead, the plan is to set up a network of state-approved counseling centers that will provide open-ended information to those who are willing to die.
“As correct as it is to support assisted suicide, it is just as important not to see it as normal. Nobody in this country should feel superfluous,” said SPD member of the Bundestag Lars Castellucci. “Yes, we must acknowledge the will to die, but the same goes for supporting the will to live as long and with all that we can.”
Often, suicidal wishes are not triggered by a will to die, but by the wish to no longer live under the circumstances given at that moment.
“Primarily, we should show possibilities and help in life.”
Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medication for suicide no earlier than ten days after a consultation if they assume “the permanence and inner firmness of the wish to die”.
“We should treat people who no longer want to live with respect, instead of threatening them with fines and rising up morally,” said Kathrin Henning-Plahr, the legal policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag. Humanity demands not to leave people alone with their desire to die. Doctors should decide, not authorities.
A group led by Green politicians Renate Künast and Katja Keul is aiming for a more liberal regulation. This follows the approach that doctors can prescribe a drug for suicide when the person willing to die is in a medical emergency that is accompanied by severe 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. And of course we don’t have the right to set material criteria. We have to open the way in a reasonable way. This way must mean protection and transparency regulations, reliability of the counseling centers and associations and reasonable periods between two consultations, as well as information about the modes of action,” says Künast about the draft of her group.
All three proposals have in common that they provide for an amendment to the Narcotics Act to allow the delivery of deadly drugs for suicide.
Eugen Brysch, head of the Patient Protection Foundation, is disappointed and criticizes all three bills as misguided.
“None of the proposals put the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court into practice,” says Byrsch. Means of suicide and offers of support are available.
“If Parliament wants to regulate something, then it must focus on the actions of the euthanasia prosecutor.”