Assisted suicide business forbidden in Germany

The Bundestag voted on November 6, 2015 a law forbidding assisted suicide in exchange for monetary remuneration.

For the past year, Germany has opened the debate on the question of assisted suicide due to grey areas in the law. Assisting suicide is not penalized although unauthorized by the code of medical deontology and could lead to a ban from the General Medical Council, in certain länders, for doctors who practice it.

Assisting suicide is not illegal as long as it remains passive (for example procuring medicine for the person who wants to end her life, or accompanying the person to Switzerland to specialized organizations). The grey zone in the legislation (neither forbidding nor explicitly authorizing) could have allowed the development of business activities, such as practiced in Switzerland.

Several debates have been held at the Bundestag since November 2014. The civil society is divided on the subject.

Four propositions for a law, already presented in first reading last July 2nd, were submitted for vote:

The outlawing of assisted suicide, proposed by Patrick Sensburg and Thomas Dörflinger (CSU / CDU –Christian democratic party).

  • The outlawing of any commercially assisted suicide, a project supported by Michael Brand (CDU), Kerstin Griese (SPD, social democratic party), Kathrin Vogler (Linke : left front ) et  Elisabeth Scharfenberg (Grüne : the greens). This project is supported by the Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
  • The authorization of assisted suicide, performed by doctors under certain conditions, presented by Peter Hintze and Carola Reimann, both members of the SPD.
  • The suppression of all legal obstacles to obtain assisted suicide under certain conditions, a proposition by the greens Renate Künast and Kai Gehring with Petra Sitte (Linke).

During the past year, several authorities have opposed changes in the law.

Professionals for suicide prevention (DGS and NaSpro) deplore the orientation of this debate, which underestimates the decision capacity in complete liberty of appreciation of a candidate for suicide: for them the answer lies in dialog, listening and appropriate treatments.

The majority of German doctors are opposed to this act: for the president of the Order of Doctors, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the German doctors do not want to become “professionals of death”. En December 2014, the German Ethic Counsel also rejected any legislative change related to assisted suicide.

Last July, a joint statement from the Catholic and Protestant churches was published to express their opposition to assisted suicide: “In a human society, the major preoccupation should be to insure that people finish their life well-taken care of and accompanied to die in dignity”. On November 2, the German Jewish community reiterated its firm opposition to any modification of the law.

The evening before, the German parliament voted a law to enlarge and facilitate recourse to palliative care.


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