Latest update: 25/06/2010
- euthanasia - Germany - justice
Highest civil court delivers landmark euthanasia ruling
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has ruled that cutting off life support for consenting, terminally-ill patients is not a crime. The landmark ruling follows years of debate in the country on the controversial issue.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
REUTERS - Cutting off a patient’s life support is not a criminal offence if the dying person has willed it, Germany’s highest civil court said on Friday in a landmark ruling on assisted suicide.
The decision by the Federal Court of Justice, which follows years of debate in Germany on the subject of euthanasia, acquitted a lawyer who was convicted last year of attempted manslaughter for advising a woman to help her mother die.
The lawyer appealed his conviction, prompting the court to rule that those caring for the patient should cut off life support measures if the patient has willed it.
According to media reports, the elderly woman had told her daughter she did not want her life to be prolonged artificially before she slipped into a coma after a cerebral haemorrhage in 2002. But there was no written record of this.
Acting upon the lawyer’s advice, the woman severed the gastric tube that was keeping her mother alive. The tube was later replaced but the woman died two weeks later.
The daughter and the lawyer were later charged with attempted manslaughter. A district court handed the lawyer a nine-month suspended sentence, but the daughter was acquitted.