German Jewry applauds defeat of liberalized assisted suicide laws

(JTA) – Assisted suicide laws will not be liberalized in Germany, a move that the country’s Jewish community had vigorously opposed.

The Bundestag decided not to legalize organizations that promote or offer assisted suicide and to continue barring doctors from offering such assistance as a regular medical service.

Lawmakers instead toughened the national stance against commercialized assisted suicide. Such acts will now be punished with up to three years in jail, even if a doctor claims to have acted to relieve a patient’s suffering. The bill was passed on Friday with 360 out of 602 votes, Reuters reported.

Dr. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Bayerischen Rundfunk broadcasting company that he was “relieved” at the decision on easing assisted suicide laws “after a long, serious, and sometimes emotional debate.”

Euthanasia is a particularly sensitive topic in Germany, as an estimated 200,000 people – most of them mentally and physically disabled – were murdered in the Nazi “euthanasia” program, their lives considered “unworthy” by the state.

Schuster, a medical doctor and member of the Central Ethics Committee of the German Medical Association, also said that he hoped the law would improve hospice and palliative care for the terminally ill as “a true alternative to assisted suicide.”

Organizations that promote assisted suicide in Germany said they were disappointed in the decision, which they said removed an important alternative for some terminally ill people and their families.

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