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Germany debates assisted suicide law, Christians warn against normalising self-determined dying

Christians agree that “suicide should not be seen as a normal form of dying in society”. A new law is expected before the end of 2022.

AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus,7/Joel_Forster BERLIN 11 DE AGOSTO DE 2022 16:18 h
The building of the German federal parliament, in Berlin. / Photo: Katrin Neuhauser, [link]Deutscher Bundestag[/link].

Germany needs a new law on assisted suicide. This is what the Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled in 2020, saying “the right to self-determined dying includes the freedom to take one’s own life” and “to seek help from third parties”.

In practice, the decision of the judges means the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament) has to agree on a new law as soon as possible.

Three working groups have already put their proposals on the table. Some emphasise free will, others put the focus on medical overseeing, and others want to make sure assisted suicide does not become a commercial activity.

But experts and some politicians are saying the first step should be making sure that suicide prevention systems are improved in Germany. “We first have to build brakes before we let the car drive off”, ha said the Chairwoman of the Society for Suicide Prevention, Ute Lewtizka. A cross party group led by a social democrat and a conservative agree. “We need to make sure that people have the will to live or find that will again”, underlines MP Lars Castellucci (Christian Democrats). “If assisted suicide became more and more normal, that would also have consequences for society as a whole: the pressure on vulnerable groups, especially the elderly, would increase”.

Many see the need for a nationwide programme to support citizens with suicidal thoughts (9,000 people commit suicide every year in Germany). The Evangelical Alliance says churches should offer tangible help through training seminaries and personal care.


“A trend towards liberalisation”

Jonathan Steinert, a German journalist of the Christian magazine Pro says the draft texts putting a stronger emphasis on the will of the individual above the protection of life have more chances to be passed. Recently, “a trend towards liberalisation has emerged in other socio-political issues as well”, he tells Evangelical Focus.

But the diverse views on life and death matters that can be found inside the big political parties makes a projection of the outcome difficult.

The new law is expected to become official before the end of 2022.


Euthanasia laws in Europe

In Europe, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium are among the countries with long-standing euthanasia laws. Spain and Austria recently passed their own laws, and debates are heated in Italy, Portugal, and the UK.  

Steinert says it is probably soon to compare the future German law to those of their neighbours. What he sees is that the “the Federal Constitutional Court valued personal autonomy higher than the state’s duty to protect life. Therefore, this ruling definitely goes very far and is probably one of the most liberal legal rulings”.

Churches have been vocal in this discussion, according to German journalist. One message was clear: “Suicide should not be seen as a normal form of dying in society”. Within the mainline Protestant Church (EKD), however, “there has been a broader debate over the past two years as to whether there is a theological right to euthanasia and whether assisted suicide can be carried out or offered in church institutions”.

Diakonie, Caritas and the German Evangelical Alliance agree that “under no circumstances should suicide services be allowed to become regular services”.




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MIEMBRO DE: Evangelical European Alliance (EEA) y World Evangelical Alliance (WEA)

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