German court repeals ban on assisted suicide services


A German law that bans assisted suicide services breaches the constitution, the country’s highest court has ruled in a landmark decision favouring groups that help people die when they choose.

The plaintiffs sought to overturn a law that has since 2015 outlawed assisted suicide undertaken by organisations or doctors who accepted a fee for their help.

“The prohibition of assisted suicide services … violates the basic law and is void,” the constitutional court in Karlsruhe said in its ruling.

Lawmakers must now draw up new rules to reflect the decision.

Euthanasia is particularly sensitive in Germany due to the legacy of the Holocaust, when Nazis killed and carried out inhumane experiments on Jews.

Because of the existing law, some people in Germany seek euthanasia via relatives or go abroad.

In its ruling, the court said Germany’s constitution includes a right to a self-determined death which encompasses the freedom to take one’s own life and use assistance provided voluntarily by third parties.

This decision by an individual must be respected, the court said.

Some palliative medics had argued against any change in the law, fearing it could risk premature action in cases not properly based on a wish to die.

Only a few countries in the world have legalised euthanasia whereby a doctor administers lethal doses of drugs to patients willing to die, or people perform the action themselves.



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