Woman, 79, kills herself on advice from German politician

1st July 2008, Comments 0 comments

A politician campaigning for the legalisation of euthanasia describes how he helped a woman commit suicide and challenges authorities to prosecute him

Hamburg -- A German right winger who has been campaigning to legalise euthanasia described on Monday how he recommended lethal drugs to a woman, 79, who was healthy for her age but wanted to commit suicide.

Roger Kusch, a former minister of justice in Hamburg state, called a news conference to describe her death, and implicitly to challenge German authorities to prosecute him under German laws that make euthanasia a crime.

He showed a video of the woman talking before she swallowed the drugs on Saturday and died.

She said she had not been seriously ill or in pain, but it was a growing strain to climb the stairs to her first-storey apartment and cook for herself. She expected she would otherwise end up in an old people's home.

Before retiring, she had been an X-ray operator.

Kusch, a political loner who was formerly in Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said he had contemplated lending the woman in the German city of Wuerzburg a "suicide machine" which he helped to design and which automatically administers lethal injections.

But he had decided that an overdose of an anti-malaria drug combined with a sedative was more reliable.

Kusch did not explain how the woman obtained the medications. He said he visited her just before she took them and set up a video camera to film her death. After she took the drugs, he left the apartment and came back to pick up the camera three hours later.

By then she was dead.

There is no penalty in German law for preparing another person to commit suicide, but it is a crime to fail to help someone on the brink of death. Kusch, who is a lawyer, said he left the apartment so he did not commit the latter offence.

Defending "assisted suicide," Kusch said he would assist others, but that he would not help in every case. If a 20-year-old man wished to die because of unrequited love, Kusch would not help him.

Germans seeking suicide assistance had been travelling to Switzerland to use the facilities of Dignitas, a controversial suicide assistance service, Kusch said.

"I find it unworthy of a modern, free, scientific country to send people to Zurich who at the end of their days are in need of assistance and worthy of sympathy," he said in Hamburg.

The dead woman had not been facing any grave illness, and she confirmed on the video, "I cannot say I am in pain." She said she supported Kusch and hoped her death would lead to a change in the law.

"Life in a rest home was a vision of horror that she was not willing to contemplate at the end of her life," Kusch said. She did not want to move out of her apartment.

He said he did not try to change her mind, as this would have been disrespectful to her.

"The decisive thing for me was that her desire to die was plausible," he said.


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