By Caroline Song
Recently, a group of prominent members of the German parliament introduced for debate a set of requirements that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide in their country. These legislators believe that the laws currently in place prolong human suffering, and as such are an affront to human dignity. Instead, they argue, patients should be able to decide for themselves how much pain they can tolerate.
The list of conditions included seven key requirements:
- The patient must be an adult
- The patient must be able to think rationally
- The patient must be suffering from a terminal illness
- The patient must be under intense suffering and have undergone some treatments and/or therapies
- The medical diagnoses must be confirmed by a second doctor
- The patient must be the one to administer the lethal dose of medication to him or herself
- The patient must not be suffering from depression or any other mental condition that would affect his or her ability to make competent decisions
The members stressed that this legislation, if passed, would have to be a part of civil law, not criminal law, in order to maintain trust between physicians and their patients.
Around the same time, the German Federal Court of Justice ruled that it was permissible to assist a coma patient with hastening death even though the patient had not put his wishes into writing prior to losing consciousness. The court ruled that, in situations of this kind, previously explicitly stated desires concerning end of life care could be taken into consideration.
These developments have been met with some resistance. Matthias Kopp, a spokesperson for the German Bishop’s Conference, argued that legalization of doctor-assisted suicide would only “pressurize people in borderline situations.”
The German parliament will debate passing assisted death legislation on November 13th, and will likely issue a decision as soon as next year.
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