German Health Ministry calls for ban on euthanasia drugs | News | DW | 30.06.2018
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German Health Ministry calls for ban on euthanasia drugs

Germany's Health Ministry has insisted that it cannot "actively support suicide." It goes against a landmark 2017 ruling that found seriously ill patients should have access to the drugs.

The German Ministry of Health on Friday called for the medical regulatory body to stop allowing seriously ill people access to euthanasia drugs.

The request to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) goes against a landmark judgement in 2017 that ruled seriously ill patients in extreme and exceptional circumstances should not be denied access to euthanasia drugs.

In view of "fundamental and far-reaching questions, particularly constitutional questions … It cannot be the task of the state to actively support suicidal acts through the official, administrative approval of the acquisition of the specific suicide agent," deputy health minister Lutz Stroppe wrote in a letter seen by German news outlets Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

"This is not compatible with the purpose of the Narcotics Act to ensure the necessary medical care of the population. A suicide cannot be considered therapy," the letter continued.

Some 108 patients have submitted applications for euthanasia drugs since the March 2017 ruling and at least 20 have already died, Spiegel reported citing BfArM figures.

Read more: When Life Becomes Intolerable

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2017 landmark case

The original complaint was filed by a man whose wife became paraplegic after an accident and had to be artificially ventilated.

In 2004 the man applied to BfArM to allow his severely disabled, paralyzed wife to purchase sodium phenobarbital for the purpose of suicide.

The claim was denied and so she traveled to Switzerland, where she took her own life with the help of the Dignitas euthanasia association in 2005.

Read more: Assisted suicide debate: Time to let euthanasia die

The man then took the case as high as the Federal Constitutional Court, but the German courts found he could not sue because he had not himself been affected. He took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which decided in 2012 that the man was entitled to a decision in Germany.

Eventually, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled in favor of "the right for a patient who is suffering and incurably ill to decide how and when their life should end" provided the patient "can freely express their will and act accordingly."

Read more: Opinion: A good death

law/aw (AFP, epd, KNA)

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