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Germany's constitutional court ruled on assisted suicide in February 2020 Germany's constitutional court ruled on assisted suicide in February 2020  (ANSA)

German Bishops reiterate opposition to assisted suicide

The Catholic Bishops of Germany repeat the Church's opposition to medically-assisted suicide, and say every dying person needs to be supported with the Christian message of hope.

By Lisa Zengarini

From a Christian point of view, “assisted suicide is not an ethically acceptable option."

The German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) spokesman Matthias Kopp reiterated that point in response to an article published Monday by the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (Faz).

In the article, entitled “Allowing Medically Assisted Suicide”, Prof. Dr. Reiner Anselm and Reverend Ulrich Lilie argue that: “Church institutions should guarantee the best possible palliative care, but not refuse assisted suicide and should offer advice, support and accompaniment to a people who wish to die, respecting their self-determination.”

Ethically unacceptable

“From a Christian point of view, people's freedom to decide for themselves at every stage of their life according to their personal ideas is very important” and this applies to death too, providing the rule of law is respected, Kopp explains in a statement published on the DBK website.

“However, this does not make suicide an ethically acceptable option,” the German bishops’ spokeman stresses. He also notes that research shows that the desire to end one's life is, in most cases, the result of fear, despair resulting from extreme situations, and therefore “cannot be understood as the expression of self-determination."

For this reason, he says, “the desire to commit suicide cannot be accepted without asking questions, nor considered as a normal form of death.” On the contrary, it is precisely in these "highly dramatic situations of life” that “respect of self-determination requires a special observation and an empathic attention."

The spokesman, therefore, reiterates the Church's position that “allowing assisted suicide is not the right answer” to the problem. “What is needed in these situations is not a help to die,” but rather "support to develop prospects of life."

He also points out the risks of all sick people being pressured to give their consent to assisted suicide “so as not to be a burden to others... This must not happen!" he says.

Pastoral care of the dying

Referring to the pastoral care for people with suicidal thoughts, Kopp further emphasizes that it “cannot be neutral.”

“It approaches each person with an open mind while at the same time giving a Christian message of hope and is always on the side of life,” he says. “Pastors accept people for what they are while offering orientation. This is how the Catholic Church and charitable institutions promote life. Making it possible to offer assisted suicide in their facilities would incompatible with their nature.”

Assisted suicide in Germany

Euthanasia in Germany is illegal according to the German Constitution.

However, in February last year the Federal Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe allowed pro-euthanasia associations that help people commit suicide to publicize their activities, declaring a law which was approved by the Bundestag (the German Parliament) in 2015 unconstitutional.

12 January 2021, 14:05