German court: assisted suicide restriction unconstitutional

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s highest court ruled Wednesday that a 2015 law banning assisted suicide when being conducted on a “business basis” is unconstitutional.

Federal Constitutional Court Judge Andreas Vosskuhle said in the ruling that the ban violates a citizen’s right to determine their own death by restricting their ability to request a third party for assistance, the dpa news agency reported.

The law in 2015 allowed assisted suicide for “altruistic motives,” but forbade people from offering it to someone else “on business terms,” with the threat of up to three years in jail. The effect was for those involved in providing suicide assistance to widely curtail their work.

The legislation immediately raised questions as to when a doctor behaved in a business fashion, and a group of ill patients, doctors and others appealed to the court.

Active assistance — physically taking a patient’s life for them — is banned in Germany, but passive help, such as providing deadly medication for them to take themselves has been a legal gray area.

The issue is a particularly sensitive topic in a country where the last time euthanasia was part of public policy it was used by the Nazis to kill more than 200,000 people with physical and mental disabilities.

The 2015 law seeking to narrow the regulations was a middle-of-the-road proposal that received cross party support. The four proposals discussed at that time ranged from fully permitting the practice so long as it is not for profit to a near-complete ban.

It will now be up to the government whether to re-open the debate to work on a measure in line with the court’s ruling.

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