Advice in the Bundestag: Criticism of applications for euthanasia

Status: 06/24/2022 10:12 a.m

Today, the Bundestag is discussing a new regulation of euthanasia for the first time. There are three motions on the table – all of which have already received criticism. Associations criticize above all that suicide prevention is neglected.

Before the first Bundestag consultation on a new regulation of euthanasia, patient advocates criticized the three existing applications.

If the Bundestag wants to regulate organized assisted suicide, the self-determination of those who want to die must be strengthened and protection against heteronomy must be guaranteed, said the head of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. “None of the three bills can live up to these claims.”

“Suicide prevention often falls by the wayside”

The planned mandatory consultations missed reality, said Brysch. It is “impossible to measure autonomous decisions with universal categories,” said Brysch. In addition, the medical and nursing offers are currently not sufficient to strengthen self-determination and rule out heteronomy, he warned. Psychotherapy and care that preserves dignity are also often unattainable for many terminally ill, full of life or mentally ill people.

“Suicide prevention far too often falls by the wayside. That cannot be changed overnight with an additional suicide prevention law,” said Brysch. In order to preserve the autonomy of those who wish to die, the Bundestag must, as a minimum consensus, ban assisted suicide in exchange for money.

In addition, the actions of the individual euthanasia practitioner should be the focus of criminal law. “His actions require the highest level of expertise and must ensure without a doubt that the suicide is desired in a self-determined manner.” Every suicide helper has to “personally guarantee that the decision is made without the influence and pressure of third parties”.

Three drafts are up for discussion

In February 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the “ban on commercial promotion of suicide” to be void. It ruled that the right to self-determined life also includes the right to take one’s own life and to enlist the help of others in doing so. Since then, organizations that offer or mediate this form of euthanasia have been able to operate legally in Germany.

In order to regulate euthanasia anew, there are three motions that have been drawn up across factions and will be discussed in the Bundestag at noon in the first reading. One of the drafts for a new regulation provides, among other things, for a ban on commercial assisted suicide and certain requirements for prior consultations.

Other templates provide for more liberal regulations, but also rely on certain conditions or advisory services. The motions still have to be discussed in the committees. A decision by the Bundestag is not expected until autumn.

Professional associations are pushing for quick prevention regulations

In addition to the patient protectors, the German Society for Suicide Prevention (DGS) and the German Hospice and Palliative Care Association (DHPV) also criticized the three draft laws.

They assessed the application to strengthen suicide prevention as too non-binding and pushed for a quick legal regulation. This must be done before any new regulation of assisted suicide. “Before we consider state-sponsored assisted suicide, let alone enshrine it in law, suicide prevention urgently needs to be strengthened,” said DHPV chairman Winfried Hardinghaus.

In the words of DHPV Managing Director Benno Bolze, the bills “sell a security that doesn’t exist at all”. According to Bolze, the laws are geared more towards a “secure entry point” and less towards preventing people from committing suicide.

More suicides feared

According to the estimates of the two professional associations, the number of suicides will increase with a legal regulation, without the so-called hard suicides decreasing. This was suggested by developments in Belgium and the Netherlands, for example. With the legal regulation of assisted suicide, a regulated way to suicide is made available for the first time, criticized the DGS chairwoman Ute Lewitzka.

The deputy DGS chairman, Uwe Sperling, pointed out that decisions to commit suicide are “usually made when there is great emotional distress, so that one cannot go on living like this”. Above all, offers of support are needed here. Hospice work and palliative care play a key role in this. The associations also insisted that no person or organization should be obliged to participate in assisted suicide.

The welfare organizations of the churches, Diakonie and Caritas, are also demanding a law on suicide prevention. “Parliament must now create legal regulations to prevent people from having to explain themselves by being confronted with offers of suicide,” said Caritas President Eva Maria Welskop-Deffaa. “A law on the prevention of suicide is absolutely necessary and would be a strong social signal from Parliament for an appropriate balance between protecting life and self-determination,” said Diakonie President Ulrich Lilie.

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