Assisted suicide OK if patient consents: Germany

Germany`s top criminal court issued a landmark ruling legalising assisted suicide in cases where it is carried out based on a patient`s prior request.

Updated: Jun 26, 2010, 00:22 AM IST

Berlin: Germany`s top criminal court issued a
landmark ruling on Friday legalising assisted suicide in cases
where it is carried out based on a patient`s prior request.

The ruling came as the court overturned the conviction of
a lawyer who had counseled his client in 2007 to stop tube
feeding her mother, who had been in a non-responsive coma for
five years. A lower court had convicted attorney Wolfgang Putz
of attempted manslaughter and given him a nine-month suspended
sentence.

The Federal Court of Justice said the 71-year-old woman
had said in 2002 that she did not want to be kept alive under
such circumstances before falling into the coma.

German Justice Minister Sabine
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger welcomed the ruling as a major
step toward respecting an individual`s wishes. "There can`t be
forced treatment against a person`s will," she said in a
statement. "This is about the right of self-determination and
therefore a question of a life in human dignity until the
end."

Germany took political steps to clarify the legal
situation surrounding assisted suicide late last year.

Parliament passed a law that made people`s declarations
on whether they wanted treatment to prolong their life
following an accident or when terminally ill binding for
doctors.

But the court ruling now makes it legal to help end a
person`s life if it is their wish, rather than simply letting
them die.

In the case considered, the 71-year-old woman fell into a
coma after a cerebral hemorrhage in October 2002. Confined to
a nursing home, she was fed through a tube for five years.

PTI