§217 StGB

In November, 2015, the German Bundestag (Deutscher Bundestag) passed new legislation on the "commercial assistance of suicide" in the penal code. The wording read as follows:

  1. Anyone intentionally and commercially granting, supplying or mediating assisted suicide will be punished with up to three years of imprisonment or with a financial penalty.
  2. A non-commercial acting participant is not subjected to prosecution, when the acting participant mentioned in paragraph 1 a relative or a closely related.

§217 StGB: New legislation on the "commercial assistance of suicide" in the penal code Online Version (German)

The criminal offence has led to heavy feelings of uncertainty among attending physicians, palliative doctors and advisary organisations, as the criterium "commercial" is met whenever an action is organised or set on repetition. That is why a series of constitutional complaints have been filed against §217 StGB. Most recently, a constitutional complaint has been rejected on 20 July, 2017 on the grounds of inadmissability.

BVerfG, Decision of 20 July, 2017 . Online Version (German)

In their decision of February 26, 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court finally declared Act 217 of the StGB to be unlawful. In their justification the court refers to the general right of personality, documented in Article 2 of German Basic Law. According to the judges, it also includes "as an expression of personal autonomy a right to self-determined death".

BVerfG (2020): Judgment of the Second Senate of February 26, 2020. Az: 2 BvR 2347/15, Rn. 1-343.

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