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medicine and a glass of water
The former Hamburg minister said the woman took a deadly cocktail of drugsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Assisted Suicide

DW staff (jam)
June 30, 2008

A former justice minister of the city of Hamburg and long-time advocate of assisted suicide has reported that he helped a 79-year-old woman kill herself. She was not ill, but afraid of having to go to a nursing home.


Robert Kusch told reporters that the woman, from the city of Wuerzburg, identified in press reports as Bettina Sch., took a tranquilizer and malaria medication she obtained herself to end her life on Saturday. In order to prove that the woman, a former x-ray technician, had wanted to die, Kusch showed reporters interviews with her which he had videotaped.

"I have campaigned for a long time for self-determination until the very end," he said to reporters in Hamburg on Monday, June 30. He said making one's own decisions about life and death was a "central pillar of a modern society" and that determining one's own end of life should not be something "only theoretically discussed in seminars."

Robert Kusch already stirred controversy in March of this year when he unveiled his "suicide machine," a device that could deliver a deadly infusion of potassium chloride. However, in this case, the machine was not used.

Sharp criticism

The German Hospice Foundation has expressed indignation over Kusch's action, saying he is primarily interested in drawing attention to himself.

Robert Kusch and his
Robert Kusch and his "suicide machine"Image: picture-alliance/ dpa

"There is a right to life, there is also a right to die, but there is not a right to kill," said Eugen Brysch, the foundation's director, accusing Kusch of abuse "people's fears of old-age care" out of a "deep sense of narcissism."

According to German law, it is not illegal if someone is present at a person's suicide, Brysch said. However, obtaining lethal medication for that individuals does violate the legal code. Brysch said that the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, would discuss on Friday a draft law that would ban commercial suicide services.

Policiticians and church leaders have also sharply criticized Kusch. Green party politician and vice-president of the Bundestag, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called Kusch's action "completely inacceptable."

The Protestant bishop of Hamburg, Maria Jepsen, told the epd news agency that her church rejects Kusch's approach, saying the form of assisted suicide he is endorsing violates human dignity and Christian responsibility.

Hamburg's prosecutor's office has begun a preliminary investigation into Kusch's action.

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