EIn a cross-party draft law around the members of the Bundestag Lars Castellucci (SPD), Ansgar Heveling (CDU), Kirsten Kappert-Gonther (Greens) as well as Benjamin Strasser (FDP) and Kathrin Vogler (Left) wants to limit assisted suicide to adults and persons capable of insight. It is the most restrictive of three proposals to reorganize euthanasia that will be discussed in the new Bundestag.
In order to rule out possible external pressure on the disabled or mentally ill, according to the draft, a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy who was not involved in the suicide must confirm that the decision to commit suicide is voluntary, serious and of a permanent nature. The suicidal person must have at least two psychiatric examinations spaced at least three months apart. In the meantime, a counseling session is planned, in which addiction and debt counseling should be included in addition to doctors.
“Thoughts of suicide are usually volatile,” said Green Party politician Kappert-Gonther at the presentation of the draft in Berlin. To ensure that a potentially solvable and temporary condition does not prematurely become an irreversible decision to commit suicide, certain waiting periods should be observed. According to the draft, this period can be shortened if someone suffers from an “incurable, progressive and advanced disease with a limited life expectancy”.
Children and young people under the age of 18 should generally not be able to claim assisted suicide. The draft law of the deputies, which the Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) and Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) also support in their deputy function, is flanked by the motion to expand suicide prevention in Germany and to create more counseling services.
“Enable assisted suicide, but do not encourage it”
According to the draft, anyone who commercially promotes the suicide of another without considering the duty to advise should be punished with imprisonment for up to three years or a fine. “We want to make assisted suicide possible, but we don’t want to encourage it,” Castellucci said on Thursday. He warned of a dangerous imbalance that could arise when access to suicide is easier than to palliative care, nurturing or psychotherapy. Commercial euthanasia should only remain unpunished under narrow conditions. As soon as at least five percent of the members of the Bundestag support the bill, it can be discussed in plenary.
There are two bills from the last legislative period that do not want to sanction assisted suicide. A draft by Katrin Helling-Plahr (FDP), Petra Sitte (Left) and Karl Lauterbach (SPD) wants to secure access to medication for suicide and sees assisted suicide exclusively as a medical task. Renate Künast and Katja Keul (both Greens) had presented a similar proposal. Those who want to die with a terminal illness should be advised by doctors, for everyone else there should be state agencies with advice under strict conditions.
Karlsruhe decision made new regulations necessary
Assisted suicide was always permitted in Germany, but commercial, i.e. repeated, euthanasia was punishable by law until the end of February 2020. A law banned them in 2015. In contrast, those affected, euthanasia associations and doctors complained before the Federal Constitutional Court. In February 2020, Karlsruhe declared the ban on “businesslike promotion” of suicide to be unconstitutional and repealed the corresponding Section 217 of the Criminal Code. At that time, the judges developed the general right to self-determined dying, which they expressly did not want to see restricted to the terminally ill.
Since the ban was lifted, assisted suicide organizations have also been legal by euthanasia organizations – for example, by procuring or providing a lethal drug that the person wishing to die must take himself. In its judgment, the Federal Constitutional Court pointed out various possibilities for a legal framework intended to prevent the abuse of euthanasia.