CV NEWS FEED // The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, Germany denied the request of two men who wanted to acquire lethal chemicals in order to kill themselves, yet suggested alternative ways for them to commit physician-assisted suicide.
Both men were seeking permission from the court to acquire sodium-pentobarbital to commit suicide at home, but the court rejected their application. One of the men has advanced multiple sclerosis, and the other is suffering from the effects of cancer.
According to a press release, the court cited the Narcotics Act in its decision, which in part has “the legitimate aim of preventing misuse of lethal narcotics,” expressing concern of an increase in drug trafficking:
The purchase of sodium pentobarbital for suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the law, which is to ensure the necessary medical care for the population. Medical care within the meaning of the regulation means the use of an anesthetic to cure or alleviate illnesses or pathological complaints. In principle, ending one’s own life does not have such a therapeutic goal.
In its decision, the court added, “These burdens on those wishing to die are offset by important public welfare concerns, which are protected by not opening up access to sodium pentobarbital. The dangers to the life and health of the population resulting from misuse or misuse of the drug are particularly great and serious given its lethal effect and the ease of use.”
Human rights organization ADF International praised the ruling as a step in the right direction, but said the legal situation remains “unsatisfactory.”
“We welcome the ruling of the Federal Administrative Court,” said Dr. Felix Böllmann, a German lawyer and head of the European activities of ADF International, in a press release. “The court makes a clear distinction between medical means of healing, alleviation, and health promotion and the demand for killing. Suicide is not a health service. The task of doctors and medical professionals is to save lives and provide support instead of killing.”
“Indeed, the state has a legal obligation to systematically protect every human life,” Böllmann added. “A look at other countries shows that the misuse of lethal means can never be prevented. For this reason alone, the state’s framework of protection and prevention must place high demands on the delivery of such compounds.”
In 2020 the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that denying citizens the “right to assisted suicide” was unconstitutional, although active assistance in dying remained illegal.
German lawmakers remain divided on the legality of “passive” assisted suicide, such as the removal of life support or giving a patient lethal compounds to take themselves.
The court noted that while the use of sodium pentobarbital is now illegal for the purpose of euthanasia, no “right to suicide” has been violated. The court explained that under current German law, a citizen still has a “[right] to make the self-determined decision to consciously and intentionally end his or her own life… this right is not limited to serious or incurable illnesses or certain phases of life and illness and does not require any justification.”
The court declared that there are alternative measures for patients if they desire to end their lives: “For people who have made a self-determined decision to end their life, there are other reasonable options for realizing their wish to die… several organizations have resumed the placement of doctors willing to assist suicide… [and] there is a realistic possibility for those wishing to die to obtain access to (prescription) medication through a doctor with which suicide can be carried out,” the court declared.
Böllmann said that Germany’s current legal situation leaves
the most vulnerable people in society unprotected from the dangers of assisted dying while allowing commercial and ideological interests to dominate the scene. Nevertheless, it is good that the federal administrative court mentions and strengthens the state’s concept of protecting the life of every individual. Everyone has a right to life. And everyone has the right to have their life protected from and by everyone.