Germans prepare last details of euthanasia law


Central Europe


Suicide prevention associations expressed much criticism at the draft law. Photo ANP, Roos Koole

Most likely, Germany will decide on a new euthanasia law before the summer. Politicians are busy preparing the last details of the law. The most conservative proposal was liberalised last-minute as well.

On Tuesday morning, news broke that the most conservative draft of the two bills for a new euthanasia law had been changed. The group of deputies, led by Lars Castellucci from the Social Party, has done concessions on the advertising ban proposed in their draft, PRO writes.

Castellucci's original draft introduces a general ban on organised, in other words, commercial, assisted suicide. According to Deutschlandfunk, the proposal originally wanted to regulate this through criminal law. That would mean that the Criminal Code would include a paragraph which criminalised commercial suicide and make it punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or with fines.

The difference with the current regulation would be that the law would know an exception for assisted suicide if a person went through a psychiatric evaluation that showed that he or she does not have a mental illness and is capable of making such a decision. The wish to die must be "voluntary, serious and permanent", and it should be proven by two different examinations. At least two months should be between the last examination and the suicide.

However, on Tuesday, it became known that Castellucci deleted the part of the draft that proposed inclusion in the Criminal Code. Instead, the SPD politician replaced this phrase with "a mention in the Medicines Advertising Act". That mention should prohibit misleading "or grossly offensive" advertising, calling it a misdemeanour. Thus, the condemnation of such advertising is much less solid.

On the other hand, Castellucci added a "protective space clause", for which churches had pleaded. This clause makes it possible for facilities to refuse assisted suicide or advertisements for such on their premises.

Earlier, Castellucci told Domradio that he did not want to lose the protection of life from his proposal. He then said that he was looking for a "viable solution to protect the weaker and prevent assisted suicide from becoming normal.


However, not everyone is happy with the changes in the draft. Suicide prevention associations expressed much criticism, PRO writes.

Leinhard Lindner from the National Suicide Prevention program pointed out at the press conference on Tuesday that the World Health Organisation explicitly recommends the limitation of advertising for assisted suicide. He argues that this recommendation is not taken into account by the amendments of the draft.

Advertising assisted suicide encourages people to terminate their life, Gerd Wagner from the German Society for Suicide Prevention fears. Therefore, he says, allowing ads for assisted suicide contradicts the message of suicide prevention measures.


The second proposal, of the group led by Katrin Helling-Plahr from the FDP and Renate Künast of the Greens, receives even more criticism from the suicide prevention associations. This draft law demands the right for everyone to terminate their life if they wish to do so. Assisted suicide should be an option for everyone who does not have an acute mental disorder and whose wish to die is permanent. Anyone who wants to apply for assisted suicide must undergo government-approved counselling, but the law also provides space for exceptions to this requirement in "hard cases."

According to Lindner, the care for people with a mental disorder should be much more careful. Therefore, he is against time limits for the recognition of a death wish. Lindner points out that suicidal people do not make "considered, lasting and rational decisions." "They often have a strong desire to commit suicide one day, but none the next or over a long period of time. So, it could happen that the suicidal wishes would be recognised, although two weeks later, the same may no longer exist.

The Bundestag is to vote on the suicide proposals before the summer break. In 2020, the Constitutional Court overturned the current ban on commercial euthanasia.


When the Netherlands legislated for euthanasia in 2000 as the first country in the world, the opinion in Germany was much different then. The Minister of Justice, Ms Herta Däubler-Gmelin, spoke about a "dangerous brake of taboo". Until then, euthanasia was connected with the mass killing of disabled people in Nazi Germany.



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