April 16, 2019 / 3:14 PM / 2 months ago

German court hears debate over commercial euthanasia

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - Pro-euthanasia doctors and patients petitioned Germany’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday to overturn 2015 legislation that outlaws commercial assisted suicide.

Like several other European nations, Germany does allow assisted dying - but not when money is involved.

Six complainants, including medics, suicide assistance organizations and terminally ill people, brought the case against the law that stipulates fines and up to three years’ prison for commercial help for people to die.

Hans-Juergen Brennecke, suffering from a rare and aggressive form of cancer, said he was fighting both for himself and others with similar conditions. “Everyone should take the final steps in their lives in the way they want,” he told Reuters.

The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany due to the legacy of the Holocaust when Nazis killed and carried out inhumane experiments on Jews.

Given the existing law, some people seek euthanasia via family members with no commercial aspect, or go abroad.

The Karlsruhe-based tribunal is expected to rule on the case in the next few months.

“We hope that with a decision from the Constitutional Court, we will return to (a situation where) we can help members in the way they want,” plaintiff Roger Kusch, of lobby group Assisted Dying Germany, told Reuters.

Arguing against a repeal of the law are palliative medics, who fear a change would risk premature action in cases not properly based on a wish to die.

Only a few countries in the world have legalized euthanasia whereby a doctor administers lethal doses of drugs to patients willing to die, or people take the final action themselves.

Already legal in several European states, it has become a hot topic in Spain’s imminent election.

Reporting by Timm Reichert and Frank Simon; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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