A new law aimed at strengthening palliative care has passed in the Bundestag with broad support. It comes a day ahead of a widely-anticipated and more controversial debate on assisted suicide.
Germany's ruling coalition - comprising the Christian Democrats (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) - and the Green party voted in the law during a Bundestag parliament session on Thursday.
A wide-ranging agreement had been expected for the new rules - which include increasing the funding available to residential children's and adults' hospices as well as outpatient services.
Health insurers are now required to cover 95 percent of hospice care, for example, instead of 90 percent. Medics providing palliative care as an outpatient service will have more of their costs covered and rest homes need to ensure their residents can demand access to palliative medicine. It also aims to cover previous gaps in the provision of care, especially in rural areas.
The goal is to strengthen the care available to terminally ill and dying people. Each year about 900,000 people die in Germany. A recent study revealed that only about 30 percent of them received palliative care even though 90 percent of them could have benefited from it.
Church welcomes law
Social services organizations have welcomed the measures as important but have said in some cases they do not go far enough. Germany's Catholic Church has welcomed the bill.
"Very ill and dying people must be well taken care of so they can pass away with dignity, no matter whether they are at home, in a hospital, in a care facility or in a hospice," the chairman of the German bishop' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, told the KNA Catholic news agency in Bonn on Thursday.
CDU parliamentarian Herbert Hüppe said the rules were "an important contribution to suicide prevention."
The Bundestag was due to vote on the more controversial of introducing new laws covering assisted suicide and the right to die on Friday.
se/rc (dpa, KNA, epd)