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Euthanasia in Europe Swiss right-to-die groups fear German law change

The barbiturate drug sodium pentobarbital (pictured) is used in Swiss euthanasia centres.

(Keystone)

Germany has approved a bill that makes it illegal to provide euthanasia services for a fee. The new law will affect Swiss members of assisted suicide organisations who live in the country.

The change in the law prohibits the activities of assisted suicide associations in Germany and means that business providers of these services could face up to three years in prison.

The Swiss assisted suicide organisation Exit wrote in a statement on Friday that the change in German law would have an effect on Swiss citizens living there. The organisation wrote that it is “not primarily affected by this decision”, as it only helps people to die who are in Switzerland.

Exit has “a few hundred” Swiss members who live across the border in Germany. The association said it was consulting a legal expert on “what assistance they could still give [to these people]…without rendering themselves liable to prosecution”. They added that the management of Exit would do everything they could “to protect employees” from possible German legal action.

Of 602 votes in the German parliament, 360 were in favour of the bill, and 233 were against it. There were nine abstentions. Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the new law’s proponents.

Previously, euthanasia had been a legal grey area in Germany, unlike in Switzerland. It is a particularly sensitive topic given Germany’s history: during the Second World War, the Nazis ended the lives of over 200,000 mentally and physically disabled people, under a programme of eugenics.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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