Ecumenical News International

EKD Council Chair against euthanasia as a business model

June 28, 2013

Berlin (epd). Nikolaus Schneider, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), has warned against euthanasia as a business model for the purpose of profit-making. Furthermore, assisted dying must not be allowed to be rendered anonymous and carried out by an organization, he told the magazine "zeitzeichen" (July issue). "Assisted dying belongs to the private sphere of people who trust one another implicitly, not at the abstract level," Schneider adds in the interview.

A draft law banning commercial assistance to commit suicide failed to pass the German parliament during this electoral period. The conservative-liberal coalition could not agree amongst themselves. The bill was meant to punish organizations earning money through assisting suicide, e.g. through providing fatal medications. To date this has not been an offense.

On the topic of actively assisting people to die, Schneider states: "I find it worrying that there are now elderly people in the Netherlands with slips of paper in their wallets saying: 'Please no euthanasia, even if my relatives say something else: I don't want to pushed into death'." At the same time, he concedes that people can find themselves in situations "in which they see no prospects for themselves and for their earthly life".

"We can only hope that people in situations of extreme suffering can take their decisions in responsibility before God and also in responsibility towards their nearest and dearest," Schneider underlines. "If someone opts for suicide under these conditions it would, in my view, be inappropriate to pass judgment and state: suicide is wrong on principle and contrary to the will of God, because your life is a gift and it is not in your power to decide on its fate."

Nevertheless Schneider holds fast to the principle that "life is a gift of God". Furthermore, "this principle can protect us from dealing with it lightly or prematurely ending it in a moment of depression."

His many years of experience as a pastor accompanying the dying have also shown him that the human will is not stable. Schneider: "I have seen people crying out: I hope I can die soon! Two days later: How good that I can still experience that!" Human desires are volatile, precisely in extreme situations. Being able to gauge a desire expressed at a given moment calls for a long-term, intimate relationship. "That cannot be handled as a business matter," Schneider believes.

28 June 2013

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