June 27, 2010

Patients Can Choose Euthanasia In Germany

A German court has ruled that a dying person has the right to have life support turned off if that person has given their consent.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice has acquitted a lawyer who had advised a daughter to cut off the feeding tube of a woman who lay comatose in a hospital ward.

The patient had expressed her wish at an earlier time that she did not wish to be kept alive artificially.

The lawyer appealed to the federal court after a lower court had given him a nine-month suspended sentence.

The mother fell into a coma in 2002 and had been in a vegetative state for five years when her daughter removed the feeding tube. After the daughter's action hospital staff reinserted a new tube, against the children's wishes.

The patient, in her seventies, died of heart failure two weeks later.

Germany's Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said the federal court ruling brings clarity to cases involving terminally ill patients.

The ruling, which applies to passively assisting death through removal of artificial life support only if the patient has given prior consent, does not legalize active assisted suicide. Active assisted suicide is punishable by up to 5 years in prison in Germany, as reported by the Spiegel Online news source.