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Strassbourg’s Human Rights Court admonishes Germany

In a Chamber Judgement in the case of  Koch versus Germany  (application no. 497/09), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strassbourg held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the German courts’ refusal to examine the merits of Mr Koch’s complaint.

The case concerned the refusal of German courts to examine Mr Koch’s complaint. This complaint was about Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices refusing to provide his late wife Ulrike Koch with sodium pentobarbital, enabling her to commit suicide. Ulrike Koch was completely paralysed since a serious fall and needed artificial feeding and complete and continuous nursing care, and therefore wished to end her unbearable condition by committing suicide. She finally died in Switzerland with Dignitas.

The judgement is analysed differently. Some say it is “just procedural”, leaving out any real assessment on the “right to assisted suicide”, and therefore cannot be used to facilitate changes in the attitudes towards assisted dying in Germany. Others see it as a sign by the ECHR that Germany cannot any longer avoid a real debate on the issue of dying with dignity.

The Newsletter of the German Bundeszentralstelle Patientenverfuegung interviewed lawyer RA Putz about his views (in German).