Date of Award
Croft Institute for International Studies
As medicine improves and breakthroughs on cures for illnesses formerly thought deadly continue to develop, the global population continues to age. This has introduced new concerns about aging and end-of-life health care. One proposed end-of-life healthcare solution is assisted suicide, although the practice is not without its controversies. The case of assisted suicide in Germany is of particular interest for a variety of reasons, and the practice has not had an easy path there. A series of debates in 2015 led to the practice being banned, but that ban was overturned in 2020 by Germany’s Constitutional Court. While assisted suicide is a bioethical issue, in Germany the debates that led to the 2015 ban centered around the constitutionality of the practice, with a special focus on the Basic Law’s principles of human dignity and the right to personality. As the Basic Law was ratified in 1949, directly following the Nazi period, these principles are a reflection of an attempt to prioritize human dignity following a period of human rights violations. The Constitutional Court’s decision to overturn the ban in 2020 heavily rested upon human dignity as well. In this work, I use minutes of 2015 Bundestag debates, Constitutional Court headnotes, and scholarly literature surrounding constitutionalism under the Basic Law to examine the intersection of assisted suicide with human dignity and the Basic Law. This work also serves as one of the first comprehensive analyses of the debates and the court’s decision, due to the relative recentness of the decision and the debates stalling throughout the pandemic. I posit that the assisted suicide debates in Germany demonstrate a transformation of interpretations of the Basic Law by the Constitutional Court as it relates to human dignity.
Green, Edith-Marie, "At the End of Life: Conceptualizing Human Dignity and Assisted Suicide Debates in Contemporary Germany" (2023). Honors Theses. 2845.
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