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German Bundestag to debate on new legislation covering assisted suicide

According to a report by a study commission in the German parliament leaked to “Die Welt” newspaper, three of the draft bills currently under discussion in the German parliament are unconstitutional – on the grounds that the definitions they contain would be hard to enforce. The Bundestag is due to vote on proposals to restrict its liberal assisted suicide laws this autumn, with many members concerned about organizations that offer assisted suicide services. Germany has no legislation covering assisted suicide at all at the moment – as long as they administer the fatal drug to themselves, it is legal to provide a seriously ill person with the means to help them die.

CDU’s Michael Brand helped draw up the new proposal. This bill, which has the blessing of Chancellor Angela Merkel and is likely to have a Bundestag majority, proposes a three-year jail sentence for anyone who “offers or mediates” suicide to someone else “on business terms.” The word “business” is crucial, but it is somewhat misleading, since in the German context it is meant regardless of whether any money changes hands. Brand and Griese’s law is aimed at any organization, including charities, that offer assisted suicide services.

It would mean especially outlawing the society Sterbehilfe Deutschland (StHD), founded almost six years ago by Roger Kusch, a former CDU justice minister in the state of Hamburg. “Since all the proposals are aimed against our organization, of course I welcome it whenever they are criticized,” he told DW. “But there’s a long path between the criticism of an advisory panel and the end of a legislative process. It’s good news, but that doesn’t mean I’m optimistic that this law won’t come in the end anyway. We have always held the same opinion – that the legal situation in Germany is sensible and can stay as it is,” Kusch said. “But since our organization has existed, there has been criticism from the CDU, promoted by the two big churches – and the draft bill is a pet project of some CDU politicians.”

But even the three softer reforms, drawn up by MPs from the opposition Greens and Left parties, have similar problems. This proposal wants only assisted suicide to be punished for commercial purposes – but here, the problem is that German doctors also function as businesses, in that they always invoice for their services.

The assisted suicide issue has been reoccupying German lawmakers in recent years. Last year, the leading parliamentarians tabled a measure to have assisted suicide protected by the civil code, so doctors could offer it without fear of prosecution. Meanwhile in June this year, the parliament discussed a new care act that would extend palliative care to allow patients to choose to die at home.

(source: Deutsche Welle)