A third of doctors would help terminally ill die

A third of doctors would help terminally ill die
Photo: DPA

More than one in three German doctors would consider helping a patient to commit suicide, according to survey which has been kept under wraps since last September.


The survey also shows that around a quarter of doctors would consider actively participating in the death of a patient, according to the analysis, reported Der Spiegel.

President of the German medical association Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe said doctors should not fear being prosecuted if they help a terminally ill person kill themselves, as assisting someone to commit suicide does not attract a criminal punishment.

“If a doctor is fine with it ethically, to help someone commit suicide, then they can do that under current conditions,” he said.

“There are ways in which doctors can help their patients without fear of being punished – for example via issuing a prescription.”

He said he could not personally accept the idea, but added, “I always have understanding for individual cases. I don’t know how many do it. But much happens unofficially and the prosecutors do not take action.”

The survey, conducted by the Allensbach polling company for the medical association, questioned 527 representative doctors from various disciplines. It suggested more than a third of medics had been asked for help in committing suicide, a rate which rose to half among general practitioners.

Of those doctors who regularly treat those with fatal conditions, 47 percent said they are asked for help to commit suicide ‘frequently’. Around a third said they wanted to see a legal regulation introduced.

The results show a sizeable number of doctors have in practice turned their back on the official opinion which has always been that German doctors would not help suicide either actively or passively.

Der Spiegel said that the survey had been organised in response to a poll it conducted in 2008 which showed similar results which had shocked doctors representatives. This latest poll is likely to reignite the debate over suicide within the medical community.


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