Euthanasia: Ruling: No right to lethal narcotics for suicide

Euthanasia: Ruling: No right to lethal narcotics for suicide

In Germany, every person has the right to freely decide about their death. But how should you implement this? The Federal Administrative Court makes a landmark ruling on access to a deadly narcotic.

The Federal Administrative Court has blocked those wishing to die from access to a lethal dose of narcotics for suicide. The court in Leipzig decided that the Narcotics Act, which does not provide for permission to purchase the drug sodium pentobarbital, does not violate the individual’s right to self-determined death. There are other ways and means for those wishing to die to end their own life. In addition, the dangers to the population posed by the purchase and storage of the drug are very high. (Af.: BVerwG 3 C 8.22 BVerwG 3 C 9.22)

Two men from Rhineland-Palatinate and Lower Saxony had sued. One is almost completely paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, the other has suffered from severe cancer. They had requested permission from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) to purchase sodium pentobarbital. They want to be able to kill themselves at home, surrounded by their families – and without the help of a doctor.

The federal institute rejected the permit citing the Narcotics Act. The men’s lawsuits were unsuccessful in the lower courts. Now the Federal Administrative Court also rejected their appeal.

“Other options for realizing the wish to die”

The Federal Administrative Court found that the purchase of sodium pentobarbital for suicide was fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the Narcotics Act. This purpose is the necessary medical care for the population. This means healing and alleviating illnesses. Ending one’s own life does not fundamentally have this therapeutic goal.

The fact that the plaintiffs did not receive permission to purchase sodium pentobarbital encroaches on their right to self-determined death. However, when weighed up against other public welfare concerns, this is justified. The narcotics law has the legitimate aim of preventing abuse. In addition, there are “other reasonable options for people who want to end their lives to realize their wish to die” – for example through euthanasia organizations or doctors who are prepared to assist suicide. Other lethal drug cocktails can also be used.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Robert Roßbruch, reacted disappointedly to the verdict. “This is a black day for the two plaintiffs and a black day for all suicidal people in Germany who had the hope of being able to commit suicide with sodium pentobarbital to end their suffering.” He announced that he would probably turn to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. To do this, he wants to wait for the written reasons for the judgment, which should be available at the beginning of next year.

Source: Stern

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