On 26 February, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that German law on assisted suicide in effect since 2015 has no legal validity. The European Humanist Federation (EHF) and Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands (HVD) welcome the strengthening of the right of end-of-life self-determination associated with this decision. HVD also proposes a new regulation for assisted suicide in the country.
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, has overturned the ban on assisted suicide. Paragraph 217 of the German Criminal Code, now declared unconstitutional, states that “anyone who, with the intention of assisting another person to commit suicide, provides, procures or arranges the opportunity for that person to do so and whose actions are intended as a recurring pursuit incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine.”
In its judgement, the Court argued that the right to end-of-life self-determination includes the freedom to take one’s own life and to seek the voluntary help of others. This right to self-determination had been “de facto drained” by the adoption of the Paragraph 217 in 2015.
The Court’s ruling fully confirms the EHF and HVD’s long-standing commitment to autonomy at the end of life. “For decades we have been pursuing the goal that the right to end-of-life self-determination must be respected and guaranteed,” explains Erwin Kress, HVD’s Board Spokesperson, who was present at the pronouncement of the judgement in Karlsruhe. “There must be competent and also organized help for people who have made a lasting and serious decision to end their lives due to serious illness or old age. Assisted suicide must of course be subject to clear regulations and a range of due diligence criteria”, he added.
HVD had already worked on solutions to replace the paragraph of the German Criminal Code that the Court declared unconstitutional. Together with renowned personalities from the fields of medicine, law and ethics, HVD has drafted a proposal for a law regulating assisted suicide. This draft law contains prerequisites, above all, for examining the free will and decision-making ability of people wanting to commit suicide, as well as proposals for legal regulations on suicide conflict counselling and suicide prevention.
Across EU Member States, the issue of end-of-life self-determination and assisted suicide creates strong divisions. The EHF strongly believes it is high time for Member States that allow passive euthanasia to legalise end-of-life self-determination. In addition, those who already allow active euthanasia should remain vigilant, in a context of rising conservatism and extremist religious activism.
Read HVD’s press release in German here.