How self-determined can a person decide about the end of their life? The federal government’s answer to this question did not stand up to the Constitutional Court. Now euthanasia is occupying the Bundestag again. The state of affairs.

This Wednesday, the Bundestag started a new attempt to regulate euthanasia by law. There has been a need for action since the Federal Constitutional Court overturned the regulation at the time two years ago. The Bundestag last discussed the topic a good year ago, but due to the federal elections no decision was made.

Why should there be a new law on euthanasia?

At the beginning of 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court overturned the ban on euthanasia that had applied until then. The regulation at that time was only passed in 2015, since then euthanasia has been unpunished again and possible without any state regulation.

What did Karlsruhe decide?

The Karlsruhe judges ruled that the ban on commercial euthanasia regulated in criminal law paragraph 217 at the time restricted the right to self-determined dying too much.

The general right of personality includes the freedom to take one’s own life and to seek help from a third party. It is also not limited to serious or incurable diseases, but exists “in every phase of human existence”. The legislature is now bound by this decision.

What are the proposals for a new regulation?

In the Commercial Assisted Suicide Criminal Liability Act:

A draft law supported by more than 80 MPs stipulates that the “commercial promotion of suicide” should be punishable as a matter of principle. According to this, commercial assisted suicide should not be illegal if the person willing to commit suicide is “of legal age and capable of understanding”, has been examined at least twice by a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy and has completed at least one open-ended consultation.

There should be at least three months between the at least two examination dates. According to the draft, there should be a “waiting period” of at least two weeks between the final investigation and the suicide.

The draft also provides for a new paragraph 217a against “advertising for assisted suicide”. According to this, anyone who offers euthanasia “because of their pecuniary advantage or in a grossly offensive way” should be liable to prosecution. The initiators include Lars Castellucci (SPD), Ansgar Heveling (CDU), Kirsten Kappert-Gonther (Greens), Stephan Pilsinger (CSU), Benjamin Strasser (FDP) and Kathrin Vogler (Left).

In the Suicide Assistance Act:

Another group is striving for a regulation with which the right to a self-determined death should be legally secured. The application provides for a regulation outside of criminal law. Specifically, the plan is to set up a network of state-recognized counseling centers that will provide open-ended information to those who are willing to die.

Doctors should not be allowed to prescribe drugs for suicide, such as the sleeping pill sodium pentobarbital, for at least ten days after such a consultation. The initiators are the FDP MPs Katrin Helling-Plahr and Otto Fricke, Petra Sitte (left) and Helge Lindh (SPD).

In the law protecting the right to die independently:

A group led by Green politicians Renate Künast and Katja Keul is aiming for a more liberal regulation. According to this, doctors should be able to prescribe a drug for suicide if those who are willing to die are in a medical emergency that is associated with severe suffering, especially severe pain.

According to the draft, however, it must be certain from a medical point of view “that it is a question of a foreseeable no longer changeable wish to die”. In addition, another doctor must confirm that the requirements for prescribing the deadly drug are met.

What is the timeline for legislation?

After the orientation debate this Wednesday, the drafts are to be discussed in the first reading before the summer break. There will be hearings after the holidays, and a decision could be made in October.