July 1, 2022

Paradoxes of assisted suicide in Germany

The status of assisted suicide in Germany is paradoxical: you have a right to assisted suicide but you do not have a right to acquire suicide drugs.  

In 2020 a landmark ruling by the country’s highest court affirmed the radical autonomy of every German. Everyone therefore had a right to commit suicide and for someone to assist him. However, the procedures for doing this were not specified.

This week a court in Münster ruled that even if seriously ill people have a right to commit suicide and to be assisted, they do not have a right to acquire lethal medication.

The case before the court involved three chronically ill people who had asked the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) for permission to buy the drugs needed to die by suicide. But the court said that the BfArM was not “obliged to allow seriously ill people who have decided to commit suicide the purchase” of lethal medication.

These were not the only cases. So far the BfArM has rejected 225 requests for suicide-enabling medication.

The court declared that it is up to a democratically elected government to change the law on acquiring lethal drugs, but that in the meantime such a practice should remain illegal.