Euthanasia association fails with emergency application: euthanasia law still valid

Business assisted suicide continues to be banned in Germany. The Federal Constitutional Court rejects urgent application to temporarily suspend the ban.

For euthanasia associations, the transfer of lethal substances is still prohibited. Photo: dpa

An association has failed before the Federal Constitutional Court with an emergency application against the ban on assisted suicide. Four members of the controversial initiative "Euthanasia Germany" wanted to have the new paragraph 217 of the penal code, which has been in force since December, suspended until a decision on their constitutional complaint. The Karlsruhe judges rejected a temporary injunction to do so. In their ruling, published on Friday, they express concern that other people "could be tempted to commit suicide" as a result. However, this does not say anything about the success of the constitutional complaint. (/15)

Associations or individuals are no longer allowed to offer euthanasia as a service since December 10. Anyone who, for example, provides a lethal drug to an incurable cancer patient on a businesslike basis faces up to three years in prison. The fundamental impunity of suicide is not called into question. The law was preceded by a year-long debate on the sensitive issue of conscience in parliament and the public.

The Hamburg-based association "Sterbehilfe Deutschland", which says it helped 92 people to commit suicide last year, had criticized the law as unconstitutional, but suspended its activities until further notice. A constitutional complaint has been filed by four members who want the association to help them commit suicide. They feel that their right to self-determination over their own death has been violated.

Germany’s highest judges now had to weigh up how serious the disadvantages for the plaintiffs would be if the ban continued to apply. They argue that the four have been pursuing their desire to commit suicide for some time and could still do so at a later date if Section 217 is actually overturned. Until then, the suicide would not be completely barred to them, there would only be a restriction on the helpers.

In its first decision on the new law, the court gave greater weight to the legislature’s concern that assisted suicide could become more widespread and thus create the impression of normality: Seriously ill patients might feel pressured to end their lives prematurely.

The judges currently see no evidence "that the factual findings on which the legislature based its decision could be obviously erroneous and that the further development forecast by the legislature could lack a rational basis."

The German Foundation for Patient Protection called the decision "a resounding slap in the face for the critics of the law and the euthanasia advocates." The court convincingly clarified "that the new criminal law paragraph takes both autonomy and the protection of human life into consideration," said executive director Eugen Brysch.