Physician-Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and Christian Bioethics: Moral Controversy in Germany
May, Arnd T.
Christian Bioethics 2003 August-December; 9(2-3): 273-283
Discussions in Germany regarding appropriate end-of-life decision-making have been heavily influenced by the liberalization of access to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium. These discussions disclose conflicting moral views regarding the propriety of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, threatening conflicts within not only the medical profession, but also the mainline churches in Germany, whose membership now entertains views regarding end-of-life decision-making at odds with traditional Christian doctrine. On the surface, there appears to be a broad consensus supporting the hospice movement and condemning physician- assisted suicide and euthanasia. The German Supreme Court has held that treatment decisions should, in absence of known patients' wishes, be made in light of commonly shared values, unless these violate the principle of "in dubio pro vita". The Roman Catholic church and the Evangelical Lutheran church in Germany have developed an advance directive for treatment choices at the end of life, while condemning physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. This stance is in tension with the strong emerging support for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, a development that promises to open up foundational disagreements within mainline German Christianity regarding the appropriate approach to intentionally terminating human life.
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