The assisted suicide will come. But it shouldn’t be possible in Protestant institutions. Also because of German history.
Legal assisted suicide is coming. The Federal Constitutional Court demanded it from the legislature in its judgment of February 26, 2020. “The general right of personality includes the freedom to take one’s own life, to seek help from third parties and to take advantage of it”, so the reasoning of the Federal Constitutional Court. This is now being implemented, certainly with high requirements. But we will have to deal with a vastly different legal practice. A more far-reaching question therefore arises: How does the Protestant Church react?
May or even should also be possible in evangelical diaconal hospitals, old people’s homes, hospices, outpatient services, residential facilities for people with so-called disabilities, should assisted suicide also be possible there? Because residents, hospice guests and patients simply want this and will soon have a right to it. This question is not a minor one. We are talking about the everyday life and work of far more than a million people and the patient perspective of a further million people.
This question does not arise for Catholic institutions. There is a very clear no. For the Protestant Church, however, well-known theology professors and Diakonie President Ulrich Lilie wrote a much-noticed article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on January 11th called for something completely different. In the name of self-determination and freedom, assisted suicide must be made possible, especially in diakonia, of course in careful high-quality testing and, if possible, accompanied by specially trained pastors. Regional Bishop Ralf Meister also supports this position.
Personally, I say no to these proposals. As a Christian, my personal beliefs tell me: There is no life that is not worth living before God. There is only life worth living. People who commit suicide are to be respected and morally null and not condemned at all. Church and diakonia remain well advised to stay away from any involvement in assisted suicide.
Expand palliative care
Is this heartless? This question is absolutely justified. As a hospital and hospice pastor, it is not so rare that I hear: “Please help ensure that my suffering will soon come to an end, as in Holland, as in Switzerland. Why is that not possible here !? ”No, then I will not preach to anyone that they have to persevere, or even God would reject him if they want to commit suicide. Do I know how I myself, if I really have not been able to scream for a long time, how I would then speak miserably?
But what I know from decades of clinical practice: Nobody has to go on living indefinitely and with unbearable pain if he or she does not want to. There are so many resources. Every year, doctors know more about the blessings of morphine therapy. And they dare to use it wisely more and more.
Our problem in Germany is not so much that of non-self-determined death, but rather lonely death or death experienced too early or that death before death that many people with dementia have to experience and their families have to suffer. The hospice movement and the worldwide palliative care work with great wisdom and courage not to look past those deaths. Politically, it is essential to expand these developments much further, to secure their funding and then to further improve the training of medical and social professions.
I have a brother called Rolf. And his medical diagnosis is serious nonsense. He was also a screaming kid for a long time. A year ago I was with him at a memorial event in his diaconal foundation in Scheuert near Koblenz, on January 27, the Auschwitz Memorial Day. Because people were once driven to the gassing in gray cars out of chafing. Because life was considered “not worth living”. Perhaps I am only bringing up this violent and possibly questionable argument because the Protestant Church and its diakonia in the twenties of the previous century in a certain – also – innocent commitment campaigned for “death by grace” for eugenic reasons and because after the War took decades to deal with it honestly and humbly.
Anyone entering a church house should be safe there
Of course, nobody who speaks up about assisted suicide wants to go back to that time. It would be unfair and foolish to suggest this even remotely. But I feel: the walls are thin, the lap is still fertile and our hearts sway more than we often think we are too safe.
So: Stay away from assisted suicide, definitely in church houses. We know there, in discretion and humility, many other ways to die. If necessary, palliative sedation, even in gray areas sometimes merciful ways that belong in the medical professional law, not in the criminal and permit law. Many of our nurses and doctors are “experts in death” in the most human sense. Just like you can “throw in the spoon” in church old people’s homes, ie do what is often called “fasting to death” today.
Whoever enters a church house (in which – undoubtedly – some crap also happens, we don’t need to paint it cheesy here), whoever enters a church house, should be able to be sure: Nobody dies here at someone else’s hand. Every life is protected here. Because every life, every !, is worth living.