wellbeing news

The federal court strengthens the readiness of patients in case of terminal care

The Federal Supreme Court has made a fundamental decision on terminal care: The doctor is not obliged to rescue patients after suicide attempts.

Leipzig – The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has strengthened the right of self-determination of patients. Doctors are not obliged to rescue patients after suicide attempts against their wills of life, has decided on the 5th Penalty Department of the BGH on Wednesday in Leipzig. Thus he confirmed two acquittals of district courts in Berlin and Hamburg. "It is a decisive free responsibility for the suicide decision," concluded Chairman Norbert Mutzbauer. By its verdict, the Federal Court of Justice released the previous practice of treating physicians with patients who were willing to die. (A .: 5 StR 132/18 and 5 StR 393/18)

The BGH has negotiated two cases in which doctors from Berlin and Hamburg followed physically sick people to death after taking deadly drugs and not saving their lives. They had to respond to the murders. Two elderly women from Hamburg decided in 2012 to divorce their lives. Now a 67-year-old physician was there when they took the deadly drug and tracked her death. Before that, he confirmed them unlimited insights and judgments.

Patients make decisions on their own responsibility

In addition, it is a chronically sick 44-year-old from Berlin who completed her life in 2013. Her now 70-year-old family doctor prescribed her a powerful sleeping remedy. It took a multiple lethal dose. He then informed the doctor who was looking for a woman in a coma, but did not take any rescue measures.

"The crime was with her," mutzbauer said in the verdict. Patients made decisions themselves. "A doctor can not be asked to act against the will of suicide," said the presiding judge. The right to self-determination therefore also extends to the guarantor's obligation the family doctor has towards his patient, and it is the duty to protect him. Thus, the court facilitated the implementation of housing arrangements, which are planned in civil law since 2009.

The BGH refused the appeal of the prosecution and pronounced acquittal of district court judgments in Berlin and Hamburg final. By the verdict, BGH followed the request of the Chief State Attorney. "All in all, I think the appropriate correction of the course is appropriate," said Michael Schaper from the Federal State Prosecutor's Office in light of the BGH's current case law.

In 1984, the federal Supreme Court ruled in a so-called Peterle's verdict that doctors could be prosecuted if they did not try to save unconscious patients. At that time the family physician did not revive the woman who wanted to kill with her free will. The BGH received the doctor at that time, but only because the woman could only be returned to life with serious injuries.

Religious beliefs should not be punishable

"In a secular country such as the Federal Republic of Germany, religious belief can not be a criminal ground," he said, referring to the arguments of the opponent of euthanasia. Many were arguing with God's life-giving, so suicide had to be strictly ferocious.

On the other hand, Schaper sees the "danger of violating ethical barriers" in too liberal judicial practice. He was concerned that seriously ill people feel obliged to end their life so they would not incriminate their relatives. Schaper therefore stated that conditions must be fulfilled before suicide: The patient should not be under pressure and can consider his or her free decision. In his view, Mutzbauer followed these demands.

Active euthanasia is not allowed in Germany. Since 2015, the ban on "promoting suicide action" has been applied. The goal is euthanasia as a business model of organized clubs. Seriously ill people, doctors and euthanasia associations filed a lawsuit against that ban on the Federal Constitutional Court. The decision at Karlsruhe is expected in the fall. Since the BGH cases were older, the law had no role in the proceedings.


Does Vincent Lambert have to die now – or is he allowed? His parents and authorities have been fighting for the most famous French comrades for years. Now the court has freed the path to halt treatment.