Germany Constitutional Court reverses the prohibition on assisted suicide by professionals

Team SoOLEGAL 28 Feb 2020 5:06pm

Germany Constitutional Court reverses the prohibition on assisted suicide by professionals

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled that people have a right to self-determined death. This decision reverses a previous ban on assisted suicide.

Section 217 of the German Criminal Code previously provided punishments of up to three years imprisonment or a fine to anyone who, with the intention of helping another person commit suicide, provided the opportunity by either providing the professional services personally or by procuring them. Many groups and individuals opposed this provision, including associations providing suicide assistance, people with severe illnesses, physicians and lawyers.

The law was intended to preserve "autonomy and life," but the court found that it exceeds “the limits of what constitutes a valid means of protecting personal autonomy in the decision to end one's life when it no longer preserves the individual's free choices, but makes those decisions impossible." The court found that the law violated the constitution, and had to be declared void.

The court held that the right to professional-assisted suicide is not limited to serious or incurable illnesses or some phases of life. It is guaranteed at all stages of life and conditions. Individuals, too, have the right to seek third party assistance.

The court stated that “This right includes the freedom to take one’s own life and, as the case may be, resort to assistance provided voluntarily by third parties for this purpose. Where, in the exercise of this right, an individual decides to end their own life, having reached this decision based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of autonomous self-determination.”

In ruling that Section 217 of the German Criminal Code is unconstitutional, the court noted that recognizing the right to professional-assisted suicide does not mean that legislation cannot take steps to prevent suicide at large. The court also noted that this ruling does not prohibit legislators from regulating assisted suicide.

Tagged: German Criminal Code   Section 217   Germany Constitutional Court     
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