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The right to a self-determined death as expression of the right to freedom of personal development: The German Constitutional Court takes a clear stand on assisted suicide
  1. Ruth Horn
  1. The Ethox Centre, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford University, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ruth Horn, The Ethox Centre, Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford University, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK; ruth.horn{at}ethox.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

On 26 February 2020, the German Constitutional Court rejected a law from 2015 that prohibited any form of ‘business-like’ assisted suicide as unconstitutional. The landmark ruling of the highest federal court emphasised the high priority given to the rights of autonomy and free personal development, both of which constitute the principle of human dignity, the first principle of the German constitution. The ruling echoes particularities of post-war Germany’s end-of-life debate focusing on patient self-determination while rejecting any discussion of active assistance to die through a lethal injection administered by a doctor. This brief report discusses the ruling in the light of the broader sociopolitical and historical context of the German end-of-life debate.

  • autonomy
  • end of life
  • suicide/assisted suicide
  • law
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Footnotes

  • Contributors RH is the sole author of this paper.

  • Funding The author is based at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and the Ethox Centre which are both supported by a Wellcome Centre Grant (203132/Z/16/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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