Assisted Suicide Provokes Outcry in Germany

German lawmakers debate new law on the right to die.

ByABC News
July 4, 2008, 11:39 AM

PASSAU, Germany, July 4, 2008 — -- Lawmakers gathered in Berlin today to discuss legislative steps for a new law that would outline Germany's position on the right to die.

The meeting, which had been scheduled some time ago, came only a few days after a widely publicized suicide that caused public outcry here.

Earlier this week, Roger Kusch, a German campaigner for assisted suicide, admitted publicly that he'd helped a 79-year-old woman from the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg after she'd decided to commit suicide.

He told reporters at a news conference in Hamburg that he had counseled the woman about how to commit suicide but that he did not administer the deadly drugs.

Kusch said he actually left the room after she drank a poisonous brew, which contained the anti-malaria drug chloroquine and a sedative called diazepam.

He returned to the woman's apartment three hours later to find her dead on her bed.

"She has died with dignity, a peaceful death for which she had decided of her own free will," he said. "Her last words were "auf Wiedersehen," or farewell.

The woman, Bettina Schardt, a retired X-ray technician, was single and apparently had no family to look after her.

Kusch said that she was neither terminally ill nor suffering acute pain but her life was unpleasant.

He showed reporters a video tape on which the woman was heard saying, "I can't really say I'm suffering, but I find it extremely hard to care for myself."

Kusch also said that she had trouble moving around in her apartment and hardly ever went outside.

"She knew her physical condition was deteriorating, she figured life in a nursing home would soon become her only option, and she was not going to accept that," Kusch told ABC News in a telephone interview today.

"That thought was simply unbearable for her. She has decided of her own free will that she would rather die than live in a nursing home."

Kusch is a trained lawyer who formerly served as a secretary of justice in the Hamburg city council.

He knew to be careful about actively assisting the woman, and he videotaped the entire process by remote control as proof to avoid legal prosecution.