German Court Overturns Ban on Assisted Suicide

BERLIN — Germany’s highest court on Wednesday overturned a ban on medically assisted suicide, adding to a long-simmering debate about euthanasia and the role of professionals in end-of-life decisions in a country with Nazi ties to the practice.

The Federal Constitutional Court found that the right to die “includes the freedom to take one’s life and to rely on the voluntary help of another person,” according to the judgment handed down in Karlsruhe.

The case centered on a paragraph in the German criminal law, in place since 2015, that forbade professionally assisted suicide and made it punishable by a fine or up to three years in jail. The law allowed assisted suicides for “altruistic motives” but forbade people from offering it to someone else “on business terms.”

Passive help in suicides — providing the means for a terminally or gravely ill patient to take his or her own life — is legal, but heavily regulated.

The ruling on Wednesday came in a lawsuit brought by a group of doctors, patients and proponents who argued that the 2015 measure effectively infringed on their constitutional right to make decisions about their own lives.

The issue is especially contentious in a country where the Nazis — who sent millions to their deaths in concentration camps during World War II — used euthanasia as public policy to kill hundreds of thousands of disabled people.

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