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German movie leads to debate about assisted suicide

The film “Gott”, based on the play of Ferdinand von Schirach, conjures up a fierce controversy in Germany. Palliative physicians and psychologists accuse the maker of the movie of misrepresenting the question of the right to assisted suicide. Other palliative care physicians and lawyers now say the critics distorted everything from A to Z.

Gott (the play)

Richard Gärtner, 78, a physically and mentally healthy man, has not wanted to live since his wife’s death. He demands a drug that kills him. Doctors, lawyers, pastors, ethicists, politicians and sections of society doubt whether doctors can help him with his suicide. The ethics committee is discussing the case. Ferdinand von Schirach negotiates the death of man in this play. And as in his first drama “Terror”, we have to make our own judgments in the end. Who owns our lives? Who decides our death? Who are we? And who do we want to be? 

Movie and television premiere

The play was now being screened as a television film. Central question of the film is: “May he die?” The film, that went in world premiere last april, was broadcast on monday November 23 on the German television channel ARD. At the beginning and at the end of the film, Barbara Auer, chairwoman of the ethics council, looks directly into the camera and asks the audience: “Do you think it is right to give a healthy person a lethal drug? Would you do it if you were a doctor?”

After the film is broadcast, the result of the vote will be published in a special edition of Hard but fair discussed with Frank Plasberg.


After the film was aired on ARD, a group of palliative care physicians and psychologists had come forward to accuse the play of asking the wrong question. The question is not whether there is a right to suicide, but whether there is such an “assisted” suicide and what follows from it. This group of critics is now confronted by a second group of palliative care physicians, lawyers and ethicists and protests against the protest: they say that the first group misinterprets the verdict of the Federal Constitutional Court and distorts the film.

Thus, it is not true that the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that ‘all people, regardless of age and suffering, should be entitled to assisted suicide’ and that a ‘legal right to assisted suicide’ should be established. Such a claim is ‘both ethically and legally a right which corresponds to an obligation to perform by another person’. And the Federal Constitutional Court expressly denied this in the case of assisted suicide. Among other things, the decision states: “No one can be obliged to provide suicide assistance.” The reasoning of the judgment states: ‘The right to self-determined death does not derive any claim to third parties to be assisted in a suicide project’.

Read more

Film criticism of “God” by Ferdinand von Schirach: The last question – media (

Pro und Kontra zu von Schirachs „Gott“ (