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Germany court overturns ban on professionally assisted suicide


BERLIN: A five-year-old law banning professionally assisted suicide has been rejected as unconstitutional by Germany’s top court. The court backed complaints by a group of terminally ill patients and doctors who challenged the law that made “commercial promotion of assisted suicide” a criminal offense, BBC reported.  Assisted dying had been legal.

But the law change prompted terminally ill people to go to Switzerland and the Netherlands to end their lives. Advice centers that operated until 2015 had to stop working because of the risk of a jail sentence for promoting suicide. The law was aimed at stopping groups or individuals creating a form of business, by helping people to die in return for money. In practice, it meant a ban on providing any type of “recurring” assistance.

Medical ethics expert Gita Neumann, who has provided advice and support for years to people in their 80s said she knew of no doctor in Germany who had helped with assisted suicide in the past five years, because of the new clause in the criminal code. One of the plaintiffs, Dr. Matthias Thöns, said that normal palliative work had become criminalized.

However, the head of Germany’s palliative medicine society, Heiner Melching, warned that overturning the ban could open a door to “self-styled euthanasia assistants”. The head of Germany’s constitutional court, Andreas Vosskuhle, said on Wednesday that while parliament could pass laws on preventing suicide and increasing palliative care, it was not entitled to affect the impunity of assisted suicide. But there remains no legal entitlement to euthanasia and doctors cannot be required against their will to help provide assisted suicide. (IANS)

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