The professional association for German
doctors may soon relax its disapproval of physician assisted suicide. President
of the Bundesärztekammer (BAK, or National Medical Association), Jörg-Diettrich
Hoppe, says that new guidelines are being finalised and will be published in
the first half of the year.

Some doctors oppose change, but the
tendency is clear, says Dr Hoppe. Current guidelines state that if a doctor
helps someone commit suicide, he is acting unethically, and therefore
unprofessionally. This will be replaced by the notion that such assistance does
not belong in the medical repertoire.

Since assisted suicide is legal in Germany,
this means that it will be up to each doctor to decide whether he or she will

Support for physician assisted suicide
seems to be growing. In June last year Germany’s highest court ruled that it
was not a criminal offense to cut off life-sustaining treatment of patients who
had previously expressed a wish to die.

And in July police dropped the prosecution
against two adult children of a woman doctor who had prescribed lethal drugs
for herself in the event that she became demented. She took the drugs in their
presence and died. The prosecutor explained: “a relative cannot be charged with
a criminal offense, if he respects the serious decision to die made by his kin
and therefore does not immediately ring for medical help when the person loses
capacity and consciousness or initiate other emergency measures.” ~ Die
Welt, Dec 28
; World Federation of
Right to Die Societies, Feb 2
; New York
Times, June 25

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.