BERLIN (AP) — A German federal court on Tuesday denied two seriously ill men direct access to a lethal dose of a drug, arguing that the country’s narcotics law stands in the way and that they could turn to assisted suicide to end their lives.
The two men, one of whom has advanced multiple sclerosis and the other of whom has been through cancer, sought permission to acquire lethal doses of natrium-pentobarbital. Their applications were rejected, as were appeals to lower courts.
The Federal Administrative Court agreed, citing a clause in the narcotics law which states that permission will be refused if an application doesn’t comply with the legislation’s purpose “to ensure the required medical care of the population” and prevent the abuse of drugs. It said that the refusal can be reconciled with the constitutional right to a “self-determined death” because there are “other reasonable possibilities to fulfill their wish to die.”
The court pointed to a “realistic possibility” of obtaining lethal doses of drugs via a doctor, including through organizations that connect people who want to die with doctors who are willing to help.
Germany currently has no clear law on assisted dying. In July, lawmakers failed to agree on new rules regulating assisted suicide after the country’s highest court struck down legislation which banned the practice when conducted on a “business” basis.
The Federal Constitutional Court ruled in 2020 that the ban, which was introduced five years earlier, violated the rights of citizens to determine the circumstances of their own deaths by restricting their ability to seek assistance from a third party.
Active assistance — physically taking a patient’s life for them — is banned in Germany, but passive help, such as providing deadly medication for them to take themselves, has been a legal gray area.
The issue is particularly sensitive in a country where more than 200,000 people with physical and mental disabilities were killed under euthanasia programs run by the Nazis.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs in Tuesday’s case, Robert Rossbruch, said the verdict marked a “black day” and that he was likely to take the case to the constitutional court, German news agency dpa reported.