February 28, 2024

Leading German doctor backs assisted suicide

Book just published
Dr Michael de Ridder

Should Germany shake off its scruples about
assisted suicide? Der Spiegel pursued this sensitive question in a recent
interview with Dr Michael de Ridder, an emergency medicine specialist who is
also the chairman of the Hans Joachim and Käthe Stein Foundation for Palliative
Medicine. His book, he released the book “Wie wollen wir sterben? Ein
ärztliches Plädoyer für eine neue Sterbekultur in Zeiten der
Hochleistungsmedezin,” or “How Do We Want To Die? A Doctor’s Plea for
a New Culture of Dying and Death, in an Era of High Tech Medicine” was
released last month in Germany.

Dr de Ridder believes that doctors are afraid
to let people die and keep them alive in undignified states simply because they
can. “With palliative medicine, we now have the ability to make death happen
the way people want it to: Peacefully. But all too often we work against that
principle and turn death into a horrible experience for many,” he told Der

It’s difficult to tell from the interview
whether he distinguishes between palliative care and terminal sedation. But the
interview takes an interesting turn when he discusses medical ethics:

Protocols should replace clinical
judgement: “It isn’t about morals. It’s about empiricism. You could say, for
example: If a treatment was not successful the first 100 times, it should not
be used for the 101st time.”

Doctors have a higher duty than ethics: “I
am convinced that there are situations in which it isn’t just ethically
justified, but in which I, as a doctor, have a duty to do this. Situations in
which I am called upon to relieve the suffering of someone who is severely ill,
and in a hopeless situation — and to conduct this in the manner in which the
patient wants. In this sense, I see assisted suicide as a kind of palliative
measure, albeit a very extreme one.”

A debate on assisted suicide is needed in
Germany: “For years, the German Medical Association has had a de-facto ban on
thinking or speaking about this issue. But as doctors we need an open debate on
physician-assisted suicide and the problems that arise around the
administration of palliative care.” ~ Der Spiegel,
Mar 26

Michael Cook
assisted suicide
palliative care