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Germany

German Police Stop Controversial Suicide Counselor

German police have issued a temporary restraining order against controversial euthanasia advocate Roger Kusch, prohibiting him from aiding any more people who want to end their own lives.

Former state senator for justice presents a video to journalists about the medically assisted suicide of Bettina Schardt in Wuerzburg during a press conference in Hamburg

Kusch showed a video of the first suicide

The former Hamburg justice minister has helped at least five people to take their lives since June. Only one of those five was very seriously ill.

Hamburg police chief Ralf Meyer said the injunction against Kusch had already been verbally issued during a search of his premises at the end of November. Meyer added that Kusch was challenging the restraining order in court.

November's search was triggered by several investigations being conducted into his activities. The former politician and judge is suspected of violating Germany's medical drugs law -- by illegally dispensing and trading in medicines.

Kusch does not himself directly assist in the suicides as this would be illegal under German law. But he advertizes his services as a "suicide counselor," providing advice and support for those wishing to die.

Service cost 8,000 euros

view of a room that was used by Dignitas in Zurich for assisted suicides

In Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal, as it is in Belgium and the Netherlands

On his Web site Kusch lists 8,000 euros ($10,110) as his charge, with reductions possible in cases of financial hardship.

"I provide a service. It's of value, and in our society such things do not come free," Kusch told AFP news agency in early December.

"Some elderly people come to see me because just they are tired of life," he said. "Many people now live longer thanks to progress in medicine. But living on is sometimes seen as senseless. And there are many people over 80 who don't really see the point of going on," he added.

In Germany, as in many other European countries, the number of suicides has been dropping -- except for those of older people, especially men over 75, according to official statistics.

More than 40 percent of those who are reported as taking their own lives in Germany last year were aged over 60 -- 3,993 out of 9,402 -- even though this age group accounts for only 25 percent of the population. And it is believed the real number could be much higher.

Kusch is calling for the legalization of assisted suicide.

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