Eutanasia, an ecumenical “no”

Four proposals on assisted suicide up for debate at the Bundestag. Catholic and evangelical Church warn policy leaders and German society

A firm, determined “no” to all possibilities providing for legal forms of assisted suicide was voice by Catholic and Evangelical Churches in Germany. In a joint statement released a few days ago the Church took a stand on a debate held July 2 at the Bundestag, Germany’s Federal Parliament, on four legislative proposals regarding end-of-life and the possible regulation of assisted suicide. Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany support the ban on organized forms of assisted suicide. The Churches’ opposition. “We must avoid that suicide in our Country becomes a daily issue”, is written in the statement signed by the President of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and by bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Ekd). At the same time, emphasis is placed on the need to extend palliative treatment and hospices. “Societies, and in particular the politicians in our Country, are called to protect life in all its fragility and vulnerability, acting to create the conditions for appropriate medical assistance to man and to end-of-life”, said Cardinal Marx and bishop Bedford-Strohm. “In a human society the primary concern should be that people at end-of-life stages are appropriately assisted and accompanied thereby enabling to die with dignity”. Hot debate. The debate at the Bundestag highlighted sensitive themes linked to end-of-life, deeply felt across German society. The debate was followed with interest by the Churches and by medical associations, which are also divided on which should be the conditions and the possible concessions or bans regarding assisted suicide: but in general, they are all against laying all the blame on one side and considering hospital doctors and family healthcare workers responsible. Reportedly, hot parliamentary debates confronted opposing and clashing positions. An aspect that deserves being considered is the crosscutting feature of the proponents of the various legislative proposals. Projects are presented by MEPs from various groups that call upon the federal government to adopt legislation strengthening palliative treatments and the hospice services. Projects range from a total ban on so-called assisted suicide and euthanasia to the freedom of the right of self-determination of end-of-life, void of responsibility and liability, with no responsibilities for those pursuing accompaniment and facilitation of suicide. Different projects. One of the projects presented by the vice-president of the Bundestag, Christian democrat Peter Hinze (CDU) and by two Social-Democrat MEPs (SPD), provides for assisted suicide in case of terminal disease with extreme suffering certified by at least one year of hospital-medical treatment. According to the draft law presented by the Greens assisted suicide is not punishable while doctors and pro-euthanasia associations are deemed unaccountable inasmuch as they are tools for the regulation of death options and implementation, thereby banning the economic exploitation of such practices. The articulated proposal jointly presented by Cdu, Spd, Greens and Left, with a majority endorsement by 210 MEPs, binds the decriminalization of assisted suicide to criminal liability of for-profit assistance and every form of organized suicide. Finally, a determined stand was expressed by Christian-Democrats Patrick Sensburg and Thomas Doerflinger who reiterated the ban on assisted suicide punished with up to 5 years imprisonment for whoever provides help or encourages suicide. Catholic considerations. The Catholic Church voiced its position on this issue on several occasions, saying no to all forms of assisted suicide. In particular, the mixed CDU/SPD project is rejected, as “assisted suicide is described as a medical facility with the same treatment options provided through palliative care and hospices”, underlined Mons. Karl Jüsten, coordinator of Berlin’s Office of German bishops. He added that people in difficult situations and complex living conditions could decide to adopt the legalized form of suicide. Mons. Peter Neher, president of German Caritas, reiterated that a severe regulation is needed to prevent the development of “assisted suicide businesses”, because “sick persons, in the last phase of life, need human care and good medical assistance”. The archbishop of Bamberg, Mons. Ludwig Schick, said: “The life of sick, disabled and old persons must always be considered precious, liveable and untouched by anyone”.

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