ADF granted right to defend life in German euthanasia suit at European Court of Human Rights

Husband sued Germany for refusing to give his disabled wife suicide drug
Thursday, October 21, 2010

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights will allow a German pro-life group represented by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys to intervene to defend life in a lawsuit filed against the German government. A man sued Germany after a state agency would not give his disabled wife drugs to commit suicide.

“The state reserves the right to protect life. It should not be compelled to aid in destroying it,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “The question is not whether pain and suffering occurs. The question is whether the government should be ending the life of patients under the pretext of stopping pain and suffering. The answer is unequivocally ‘no,’ and that is supported by existing case law, as well protections established in the European Convention on Human Rights.”

After suffering from a fall in 2002 that left her permanently disabled, Ulrich Koch’s wife wanted to end her life with the help of the Swiss assisted-suicide organization Dignitas. In November 2004, she requested the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices to grant her authorization to obtain a lethal dose of a drug that would enable her to commit suicide from home.

The institute denied the request the following month, citing case law precedent enforcing the German Narcotics Act and concluding that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights could not be interpreted as imposing an obligation on Germany to facilitate the act of suicide with narcotic drugs. Koch and his wife appealed the institute’s decision in January 2005, and the appeal was denied two months later.

In March 2005, Koch’s wife committed suicide in Switzerland with the assistance of Dignitas. Her husband then lodged a long series of complaints and appeals against the institute, alleging its “unlawful” denial of drugs, but each of them were denied. After the Federal Constitutional Court denied Koch’s appeal in November 2008, he filed the lawsuit Koch v. Germany with the European Court of Human Rights.

“An ECHR decision overturning all of these well-grounded rulings against assisted suicide could have disastrous consequences for member states and set a dangerous example for other nations, including the U.S.,” said Kiska. “So-called ‘mercy killing’ is a slippery slope that has no end point.  How much pain is sufficient for the government to step in and eliminate the patient?”

ADF attorneys represent Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle (ALfA), one of the largest pro-life organizations in Germany with nearly 11,000 members, and filed a brief on its behalf with the ECHR.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.