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Legal situation

In short

Austria knows one of the most rigorous prohibition systems against suicide assistance. A special aspect of this system is that it also prohibits its citizens to help other citizens to perform suicide abroad. In 2020, the Austrian Constitutional Court (VfGH) decided that the Austrian prohibition is too strict and violates the right to self-determination. 

Penal Code

Article 78 of the Austrian Penal Code (ÖStGB) reads: “Anyone who induces others to kill themselves or helps them is punishable by imprisonment of six months to five years to punish.”

The Austrian Commercial Code also provides in article 64 (1) (7) that article 78 applies even if the deed takes place abroad, for example in Switzerland, where suicide assistance is in principle not a crime. This provision may result in the Austrian Penal Authority initiating criminal proceedings against a person in Austria if it learns that that person – if he is an Austrian and resides in Austria – belongs to another Austrian who is in Austria had helped to drive to DIGNITAS in Switzerland in order to be able to end his suffering and life in a self-determined, legally and medically supported manner.

Constitutional Court Judgment (2020)

On December 11, 2020, the Austrian Constitutional Court (VfGH) ruled that the prohibition of “helping people to commit suicide” violates the right to self-determination.

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