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New attempt to regulate euthanasia

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Enabling euthanasia, but not promoting it: Five parliamentarians have drawn up a draft for the new regulation of assisted suicide. Under certain conditions, it should be possible to help with impunity.

It has been almost two years since the Federal Constitutional Court overturned the ban on commercial assisted suicide – now a cross-party initiative has made a new attempt at new regulations.

Parliamentarians from the SPD, FDP, Greens, Union and Left presented a draft law in Berlin. The aim is to ensure that people who want to take their own life with the help of euthanasia associations have made this decision freely and responsibly and not because of external pressure or a mental illness.

Consultation and two examinations

According to the draft, the conditions for unpunished euthanasia would include a counseling interview and, as a rule, two examinations by a psychiatrist or psychotherapist with a minimum interval of three months.

During counseling, people who are contemplating suicide should be informed about alternatives and the possible social consequences of their suicide. If two examination appointments are not reasonable due to an incurable and advanced illness, one examination should be sufficient.

Strengthening suicide prevention

The SPD parliamentarian Lars Castelluci hopes for a broad social and parliamentary consensus. “We want to make assisted suicide possible, but we don’t want to encourage it,” he said. If access to this were easier than access to palliative care or therapy, a “dangerous imbalance” would arise. Therefore, the accompanying application to strengthen suicide prevention is presented.

He added that up to 90 percent of suicides or attempted suicides occur in exceptional circumstances, with illness or acute stress. It is clear: what is needed first and foremost is advice, help and support.

Commercial euthanasia should be punishable

Green politician Kirsten Kappert-Gonther emphasized that suicidal thoughts are not usually an expression of the will to die, “but an expression of needing a break, of feeling a desire to break out of a life situation that is perceived as unbearable”.

She also pointed out that euthanasia associations are currently active without their work being embedded in a clear regulatory framework. The draft law therefore provides that commercial euthanasia is again punishable and only remains unpunished under narrow conditions.

The CDU politician Ansgar Heveling affirmed that it is also about “abuse and dealing with death” being punished.

The left MP Kathrin Vogler made it clear that offers of assisted suicide for children and young people were excluded.

Nursing officers versus professional suicide assistance

The federal government’s care representative, Claudia Moll, spoke out against professional help with suicide. “I don’t want to play God,” Moll said. In her professional life, she often heard from seriously ill and exhausted old people that they no longer wanted to live and saw her task in treating them humanely, encouraging them and relieving their suffering.

End “Ruleless State”.

The background to the new draft is a judgment by the Federal Constitutional Court. Two years ago, it overturned a ban on commercial euthanasia that had existed since 2015 because it violated the individual’s right to self-determined dying.

This means that it is no longer a punishable offense to help other people commit suicide, even if this is done commercially – for example through associations that regularly help people die and procure deadly drugs for this purpose. In the absence of a new legal regulation, however, the situation for those affected remained complicated.

The initiators of the new draft law now want to end this “virtually irregular situation”, as Castellucci explained.

Signature collection begins

The MPs are now collecting signatures for their initiative in the Bundestag. As soon as at least five percent of the members – 37 MPs – support the bill, it can be discussed in plenary. So far, 15 MPs are officially behind the applications, including Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens).

Members of the Bundestag present an application for euthanasia

Angela Tesch, ARD Berlin, 27.1.2022 3 p.m