Germany’s highest court has ruled a ban on assisted suicide violates a citizen’s right to determine their own death.
Federal Constitutional Court Judge Andreas Vosskuhle said in a ruling that a 2015 law — which banned assisted suicide when being conducted on a “business basis” — was unconstitutional.
It allowed assisted suicide for “altruistic motives”, but anyone offering the service on a business basis faced up to three years in prison.
While passively helping a patient — such as providing deadly medication for them to take themselves — has been a legal grey area in the country, actively helping — physically helping them take their life — is banned.
The issue is a particularly sensitive topic in Germany: the last time euthanasia was part of public policy it was used by the Nazis to kill more than 200,000 people with physical and mental disabilities.
The 2015 law seeking to narrow the regulations was a middle-of-the-road proposal that received cross-party support. The four proposals discussed at that time ranged from fully permitting the practice so long as it is not for profit to a near-complete ban.
It will now be up to the government whether to re-open the debate to work on a measure in line with the court's ruling.
The topic of euthanasia is being debated in other European countries, with Spain’s politicians currently grappling over a new bill which would legalise the practice in the circumstance where a patient suffers unbearable physical or psychological pain, with no hope of improvement.
Last week Portugal moved a step closer to legalising euthanasia, with a bill passing through parliament to the next phase.