German court rules patients can decide to end life
In a landmark ruling that will make it easier for people to allow relatives and loved ones to die, Germany's highest court ruled on Friday that it is not a criminal offense to cut off life-sustaining treatment for a patient.
The court overturned the conviction of a lawyer who last year had been found guilty of attempted manslaughter for advising a client to sever the intravenous feeding tube that was keeping her mother alive but in a persistent vegetative state.
In its decision, the court clearly distinguished between "killing with the aim of terminating life" and an action, "which let a patient die with his or her own consent".
The ruling strengthens the individual's right to die with dignity, since terminating life-sustaining treatments will no longer be a crime if patients have declared their wishes.
The lawyer, Wolfgang Putz, an expert in patient rights at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, called the decision "outstanding". "It protects against abuse and it sets down clear boundaries. It helps the patients and it helps the doctors," Putz said in a telephone interview on Friday after the verdict.