Press Release 10/2012

Ethics Council: organized assisted suicide calls for regulation

At both public and non-public meetings the German Ethics Council today (Thursday) addressed issues of assisted suicide and at the same time subjected the Federal Government’s bill on the statutory regulation of commercial assisted suicide to scrutiny.

The proceedings once again revealed the enormous complexity of the subject and cast light on the difficulties of defining the boundaries between various possible configurations of assisted suicide.

While the Ethics Council in principle welcomes the Federal Government’s proposal to regulate organized assisted suicide, the majority of its members take the view that the bill in its current form presents more problems than it solves. In particular, the Council considers that the restriction of assisted suicide to the commercial situation might encourage recourse to other forms of organized assisted suicide that are not covered by the bill. The Ethics Council therefore advocates regulation of all forms of organized assisted suicide, although the nature of that regulation was the subject of vigorous discussion.

This being the case, the Ethics Council believes that further debate within society is urgently necessary. That debate should not be confined to the issue of assisted suicide alone, but should also, and specifically, aim to facilitate the prevention of suicide and to promote the expansion of palliative medicine and care in the practice of medicine, as well as in the advanced and continuing training of medical personnel.

The basis of the Ethics Council’s discussion comprised presentations by Frank Ulrich Montgomery, President of the German Medical Association; Marion Schafroth, a member of the Executive Board of the Swiss assisted suicide organization EXIT; Brigitte Tag, of the Center for Medicine - Ethics - Law Helvetiae, Zurich; and Armin Schmidtke, Chair of Germany’s National Suicide Prevention Programme.

A transcript of the presentations and the discussion can be accessed here (in German).