April 21, 2024

German Medical Association eases assisted suicide regulations

Liberalisation puts focus on consciences of doctors

life support
The German Medical Association has issued new guidelines for physician-assisted suicide which allow doctors to make conscientious decisions about whether to assist ill patients in dying. The new text states: “The doctor’s assistance with suicide is not a medical duty.” Previous guidelines stated that assisted suicide strictly violated medical ethics. Instead of justifying or endorsing assisted suicide, the association said it was simply allowing doctors to decide for themselves whether assisting suicide is justifiable. “When doctors themselves have a clear conscience, we will not condemn them,” said Dr. Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe, president of the association.

Suicide itself is not illegal in Germany, nor is it illegal to turn off a patient’s life support when they have stated explicitly that such treatment should be ended. Killing a person who asks explicitly to be killed can lead to up to five years in prison. The German Medical Association is planning to continue discussing the issue at its national convention in May. The German Hospice Association, which considers itself a patients’ rights advocate, criticised the revised guidelines as simply removing the ethical component to the issue.

“The doctor is now in a dilemma,” said Eugen Brysch, head of the German Hospice Association. “How should he, as a practicing physician, decide when the suffering is so unbearable that he should help his patient commit suicide?” Brysch said there is no way to scientifically or objectively measure the suffering of a patient, and that the German Medical Association needs to give its doctors more qualitative advice on how to make ethical decisions with terminally ill patients.

Much of the assisted suicide discourse in Germany has been shaped by the Nazis’ euthanasia program, which killed over 100,000 sick and disabled people deemed “unworthy of life”. ~ Deutsche Welle, Feb 18

German Medical Association eases assisted suicide regulations
Jared Yee
assisted suicide