The regulation of assisted suicide in an open society: German Ethics Council recommends the statutory reinforcement of suicide prevention

Published: 18 December 2014

With this Ad hoc Recommendation, the Ethics Council takes up its assessment provided in 2012 that a legal ban exclusively on professionally organised, i.e. commercially operated, assisted suicide creates more problems than it solves, and that the criminal liability of killing on request (Section 216 Criminal Code) must remain unchanged.

Situations in which a person is planning to commit suicide and asks another person for assistance are diverse and characterised by numerous very different aspects, including the relationship between the two persons, their biographies, the medical history, and the conditions of care.

Good palliative care, accessible to all patients with a progressive disease and a limited life expectancy, relieves the distress and can help overcome fear and despair; therefore, it can provide life-oriented answers to questions about a possible assistance to suicide. However, such services only affect a small number of the 100,000 people attempting suicide in Germany every year. For isolated and mentally ill people, for instance, other suicide prevention measures and structures must be provided. To that end, the German Ethics Council submits concrete proposals.