Yes, a doctor's conviction will have an impact. But the ruling does not exclude people with mental illnesses from assisted suicide in all areas.

A man stands in front of courtroom 500 of the Moabit criminal court.

Doctor Christoph Turowski is said to have given medication to a woman suffering from severe depression to make her commit suicide. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/dpa

It was a balancing act. Anyone who followed the days of the trial could have guessed how unclear the legal circumstances surrounding assisted suicide are in Germany. In the end, however, it seems justifiable that the 74-year-old Berlin doctor Christoph Turowski was found guilty of manslaughter as an indirect perpetrator. He was sentenced to three years in prison because he gave student Isabell R., 37, a lethal infusion at her request, which she then ignited.

We don't normally report suicides. This is what the press code says: “Reporting on suicide requires moderation. This applies in particular to the mention of names, the publication of photographs and the description of more detailed circumstances.” This is also intended to prevent imitators. Exceptions may be justified if they involve incidents from contemporary history or of greater public interest. That is why we decided to report on this case.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact professional help. You can find them at any time by calling the telephone advice service: 0800/111 0 111 or 0800/111 0 222 or at www.telefonseelsorge.de.

In the case of Isabell R., the Berlin Criminal Court did not recognize sufficient “permanence” and “inner stability” in her desire to commit suicide. In its historic ruling on euthanasia in 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court determined that the person who wishes to die must act “freely and responsibly” and that the decision to commit suicide must be based on “permanence” and “inner firmness” so that medical assistance with suicide remains unpunished. The young woman had confirmed in numerous messages to the doctor her desire to commit suicide and she had asked for help.

But a few days before his death and on the day of his suicide, he sent messages temporarily distancing himself from his desire to commit suicide. The court viewed this primarily as evidence that the woman was too limited by her depressive illness and her mood swings to be considered “freely responsible.”

The ruling will have repercussions on suicide assistance, because in the future there will hardly be doctors who will be willing to help people with mental illness commit suicide. That's unfortunate. However, it cannot be generally stated, based on the judgment, that people with mental illness are discriminated against and are now fundamentally excluded from assisted suicide.

In this particular case, the exchange of numerous emails and WhatsApp messages read by the court actually indicated an instability that, in retrospect, makes medical assistance in suicide appear irresponsible. The case is now before the Federal Court of Justice and may well require security concepts. At least an obligation to evaluate the issue according to the principle of double checking would be appropriate.

Failed to fetch data from the URL.