German doctors have removed a ban on assisted suicide from their code of conduct, a move that further opens the door to allowing the practice in the country. The majority vote from the German Doctors’ Federation deletes the language that stated, “A doctor may not provide any assistance for suicide” from the group’s universal code of conduct.
According to the Irish Times, Germany’s highest court voted last year that a ban on aiding in an assisted suicide was unconstitutional. Since that court ruling, the legislative body has scrambled to put together several bills that would regulate assisted suicide and make it easier for people to obtain. In changing the code of conduct, the Doctors Federation further enables the routine practice of assisted suicide in the country.
As the Irish Times points out, the idea of legalized killing in the country is a sensitive topic, as it is reminiscent of the time when the Nazi party killed at least 300,000 disabled people deemed “unworthy of life.” According to Sky History, the first to die in these “mercy killings” was a five-month-old baby boy.
German doctors opposed to changing the Federation’s code of conduct referred to legalizing assisted suicide as the “opening of Pandora’s box.” Other opponents of the measure are concerned because many of the nation’s hospitals are run by religious organizations. Christoph Radbruch of the German Evangelical Hospital Association said that the practice of assisted suicide “cannot be a regular service offered by church hospitals.”
In making its vote, the Federation was presented with a poll that demonstrated that 75% of Germans surveyed were in favor of assisted suicide. Many of the doctors who voted in favor of amending the code of conduct wanted to make clear that offering assisted death to patients would not be a common practice. Still, those doctors and others who are opposed to the measure are right to be worried. As has been seen elsewhere around the world, legalizing assisted suicide is a very slippery slope.
The removal of the Federation’s language paves the way for a vote next month in the Bundestag, the country’s parliament. Lawmakers are currently debating between two bills: one which allows anyone to access assisted suicide, and another that would require signoff from two doctors first.
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