Guest article by Lars Castellucci – 5 myths about assisted suicide

1. Desire to commit suicide equals desire to die

Suicidal thoughts fluctuate and are very common. Most people simply don’t want to go on living the way it is for them. This can be due to health or other personal crises. In other cases, people deliberately take stock of their lives and decide that enough is enough. People should get the help they need.

This can be help to commit suicide, but in most cases it is help, advice, someone who listens that banishes suicidal thoughts. This help and advice should have a chance to reach people sooner than a quick offer to end their life for good.

2. Those willing to commit suicide are criminalised

With the way the subject is conveyed in the media in a condensed and black-and-white way, it is no wonder that people now approach me on the street and complain that people who want to end their lives are being criminalized and threatened with criminal law. This is complete nonsense. Nobody criminalizes suicidal people.

What is already criminal today is criminalized: tempting people to commit suicide, even out of economic interest. Violation of a protection concept is punishable. And for the sake of the weak, the strong have to endure that this protection concept exists, which they may consider dispensable for themselves. This is solidarity.

3. Suicidal people are patronized

It is about balancing protected goods: the protection of life and the protection of self-determination. How can this be resolved? At least not by turning a blind eye to possible conflicts. And not by denying the need for protection of self-determination. In her draft, MP Renate Künast proposes that an authority issue “a certificate of the right of the person or persons willing to die to have access to the narcotic”. That is much more patronizing than a regulation in criminal law.

Regulations in criminal law are not there to punish, but to create norm behavior by making it clear what is legal and what is not. The responsibility for a suicide must lie with the people involved and not with a government agency. That’s the other side of self-determination, that you also take responsibility for decisions.

4. Assisted suicide should be banned

None of the draft laws before the German Bundestag regulates a ban on assisted suicide. Suicide is allowed and helping with a allowed cause cannot and should not be forbidden. Of course, no one can be obliged to help either, because the decision to participate in a suicide or not remains a personal decision of conscience.

Self-determination also applies here. The so-called business-like activity, i.e. an organized activity aimed at repeated assistance with suicide, remains in the proposal of the group made up of MPs from all democratic parliamentary groups, to which I belong, but only permitted on the condition that a protection concept is observed. This protection concept provides for expert opinions and waiting periods in order to help ensure the self-determination of all people, including vulnerable groups, and the permanence of the suicidal wish.

This corresponds to the mandate of the Federal Constitutional Court. There it says, among other things: “The state must ensure that the decision to commit suicide is based on free will.” Assisted suicide is not prohibited, but on the contrary by changing the Narcotics Act in all three available designs.

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5. Euthanasia associations should be banned

Karin Dalka writes in the Frankfurter Rundschau that the euthanasia organizations would ensure that “a decision to commit suicide was made independently, well thought out and with knowledge of alternatives”. Well, if that is the case, there is no problem at all for these organizations, because that is the standard that will be set in the bill. And because it is a matter of life and death and is therefore irreversible and serious, this standard is reinforced with criminal law. So: regulate yes, ban no.

With our design, we want to give people access to suicide assistance. But we don’t want to encourage suicide. Those who wish to die can receive counseling and access to lethal drugs. If they do not have a doctor to prescribe the drug, they can contact a euthanasia organization. Our draft law is an invitation from all democratic parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag to implement the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court and to effectively protect the self-determination of all people.

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