The Federal Administrative Court of Germany issued a landmark decision in regard to the possibilities to die with dignity for German citizens. The Court decided that under specific exceptional circumstances, the German State cannot refuse to give medication to a person to end one’s life.
The case that led to this verdict concerned Mrs. Koch, who ended her life in 2005 in Switzerland with help from Dignitas. After an accident that got her almost completely paralysed and in need of artificial ventilation, she suffered unbearably and wanted to end her life. Mrs. Koch asked the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) to provide her medication to end her life at home. The BfArM refused to do so, unlawfully as the Court now concluded.
The court battle took almost 13 years. In 2002, the case was send to the European Court of Human Rights, that decided that German Courts should have investigated the case more thoroughly.
The general article on ‘Right on personality’ (article 2.1) in connection with article 1.1 ‘Protection of human dignity’ of the Constitutional Law of Germany includes the right of a severe and incurably ill patient to decide how and at what time his or her life ends, when he or she is in a position to take a well-considered decision.
The Court found that there are exceptions to this. Patients that suffer unbearably and are incurably ill, who have a well-considered and voluntary death-wish, should be able to access prescribed medication to end their life. The Court stated that the BfArM should have investigated whether the case of Mrs. Koch was such an exception.
Dignitas – involved in the case – sent out a press statement, which can be read here.