Is it a good idea to end my life?

EvangelicalFrankfurt and Offenbach

For 140 years up until 2015, it had been the rule in Germany that assisting a suicide is not a criminal offense. That was a logical consequence of the fact that suicide itself is not punishable either.

The 2015 law was introduced to address euthanasia organizations. One can argue about it. But by “businesslike” lawyers understand something different from us common people. Since then, medical professionals have also been able to make themselves liable to prosecution if they provide medication to a sick person and thus - under certain circumstances - encourage suicide.

Always one leg in jail

One of the current plaintiffs, for example, was investigated against the palliative care doctor Matthias Töns, because he had given a patient an "emergency box". In palliative medicine, this is actually what every doctor does so that the patient can help himself in the event of severe pain or shortness of breath. Therefore, such a box can contain, for example, morphine and other highly effective drugs. "According to the new legal situation, I am liable to prosecution if someone testifies that the patient has expressed suicidal thoughts to me," criticized Töns.

In 2017, however, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the state should not refuse terminally ill patients access to deadly drugs in exceptional situations. However, these exceptional situations must be specifically approved by the responsible Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. A little more than 130 applications have been received there since then. On the instructions of Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, they were all flatly rejected. That's a scandal.

Seriously ill people, including the dying, are deprived of the opportunity to put an end to their own lives.

The judgment

The Federal Constitutional Court has now issued a very differentiated judgment. At the same time, however, this judgment was much clearer than expected. The court once again made it clear that the right to self-determined death as an “expression of personal autonomy” belongs to the general right of personality and also includes the freedom to take one's own life.

Section 217 (1) of the Criminal Code was declared unconstitutional by the court. In its formulation, there was no adequate balance between the "fundamental right to self-determination, including the end of life" and the equally high constitutional value of "life". The legislature could certainly punish certain forms of assisted suicide which are dangerous for autonomy, but must ensure that “despite the prohibition in individual cases, access to voluntarily provided assisted suicide remains open”.

Human autonomy and my Christian faith

That people “take their own life” (what an ambiguous expression) has always been one of the most fundamental questions about the Christian view of life. Not only to them, but also according to Camus “there is only one serious philosophical problem: suicide”.

From my point of view (and probably most Christians) life is a gift from God. God wants life. “Autonomous people” do not exist in this Christian sense.

"Never forget it: That you live was not your own idea,
and that you breathe, not a decision of yours.
Never forget: That you were alive was someone else's idea
and that you breathe, his gift to you. "

Life also includes suffering. To endure one's own illness and suffering, to grow with it, to seek meaning in it, is part of the Christian faith and a Christian way of life.

The fact that Christ is with us in our lives strengthens us and also gives us strength.

Charity and care, "Caritas", show us the way to deal with the sick, the suffering and the dying. It also gives rise to the social mandate to work to ensure that people are well cared for and that they can grow old and die with dignity. A lot has happened here in the last few decades.

So this is the basic understanding: God gives us into the world, we live and weave in it, we try to shape this life for ourselves and others in such a way that it is worth living. We are confident that God is with us and holds us.

But now

“We're dying now - oh, that too is by God - we're going to die together tonight. Over the last few hours stands the image of the blessing Christ who wrestles for us. Our life ends in the sight of it. ”This is what Jochen Klepper wrote, who passed away with his wife in view of their threatened deportation by the Nazis.

People can consciously choose to go out of life. To take your own life. Sometimes this decision is understandable, often not.

Most of the time, people don't commit suicide because they don't want to live anymore, but because they do so no longer want to live. People at risk of suicide therefore need our support. People who do not want to go on living need first of all help looking for the reasons and the possibilities for support.

And yet it remains that this is sometimes not enough and sometimes it is not asked for.

There are also people - I confess: I am one of them - they panic at the idea that this last door will one day not be available to them. The fact that living wills have increased rapidly in recent years is an expression of a similar fear.

That my life is a gift from God also means that I can give it back. In the awareness "over us in the last hours stands the image of the blessing Christ who wrestles for us" (Klepper).

God put man into the world and gave him the freedom to shape his life. That includes the ability to end it. This is probably not an option God willed, he may not approve of it. But he will be with him. I am sure about that.

"You cannot fall deeper than just into God's hand, which he mercifully stretched out for the salvation of all of us." (Arno Pötzsch)

We have palliative medicine

Again and again, the expansion of palliative medicine is cited as an argument to be able to ban suicide assistance completely.

Nowadays, no one has to suffer from pain anymore if they are provided with good palliative medical care, including sedation. At the end of their life, patients could be able to die that they were able to reconcile with their ideas of dignity and self-determination. For example Prof. Dr. Winfried Hardinghaus from the German Hospice and Palliative Association as an expert at the hearing before the Federal Constitutional Court.

He's right!

Only two sentences should be noted:
First: Not everyone gets this help, the hospices, wards and outpatient services are overloaded.
Second: Even palliative care physicians and employees in hospices know that this is not always possible.

The differentiated judgment of the court therefore only requires that, despite a (possible) ban, "in individual cases access to voluntarily provided suicide assistance remains open."

The danger of the "inclined plane"

In ethics, the “inclined plane” is the danger that something cannot be stopped once it has started. It is warned that once there is the possibility of medical help for suicide, this will lead to old and sick people feeling that this is what is required of them. That they are out of consideration for their loved ones, for the costs they cause, for the trouble they make, to get out of their lives. Yes, that they are subtly compelled to do so more and more.

"Some people rightly ask whether lovesick young people are now offered the means to commit suicide!" I read today from a theologian whom I normally appreciate. Once that happens, everyone will soon be pushed. Once everyone is pushed, euthanasia will soon come back. If seriously ill dying people who no longer want to live are not refused support in dying, then it will soon be offered to young people and then young people will soon also be pushed ...

Many such if-then scenarios can be enumerated. I know them and definitely see dangers. But - and this is what the Federal Constitutional Court said: They have to be weighed against the suffering of humans - and their freedom to evade them.

If you really want to take your own life, you can do it. So doctors don't have to do this, some say. Well, some can do it. By using the old hard methods of falling or hanging off the roof or in front of a train. Anyone who has money can go to Switzerland and pay there. A misanthropic sentence.

Bringing death in business

Originally, the law was supposed to protect against for-profit euthanasia organizations. The most far-reaching motion to forbid any "business-like help" received a majority. This law has now failed.

The court definitely sees the possibility of guaranteeing suitable “effective preventive protection, including by means of criminal law”, through a more suitable law.

To the blog: "Not too pious" by Horst Peter Pohl