Limited protection of life

Genetic testing of embryos, organ donation, euthanasia: the medical profession has redefined its position on key ethical ies. The German Medical Congress pleaded on Wednesday in Kiel for a ban on assisted suicide, but also for a limited permission of the controversial preimplantation diagnostics (PID).

In addition, doctors want a relaxation of the rules on organ removal to help the seriously ill. Physicians' President Jorg-Dietrich Hoppe spoke of important resolutions.

The parliament of the medical profession has been meeting in Kiel since Tuesday. After a controversial debate, the 250 delegates voted in favor of a proposal by the board of the German Medical Association to clarify the professional code of conduct. Doctors are thus "forbidden to kill patients at their request. They are not allowed to provide assistance to suicide".

At the same time, the physicians' conference called for better care for the terminally ill, with the aim of enabling them to spend their last phase of life as painlessly as possible and at home. This is to be ensured via general outpatient palliative care and, if necessary, via teams of specialists.

"Zulang of PGD within narrow limits"
In the case of preimplantation diagnostics, the Physicians' Congress revised a resolution from 2002. At the time, a narrow majority had rejected such genetic tests on embryos from artificial insemination. This time the delegates decided: "The ethical consideration speaks for an admission of the PID in narrow borders and under controlled conditions."

It should be granted to couples with risks for certain diseases. Testing for a baby's sex or to limit risk in elderly parents should not exist. The Bundestag, which will soon have the final say, has three draft laws on PGD – ranging from limited access to a complete ban.

"Modified objection rule"
The Bundestag is also considering a change in transplantation law – and the Physicians' Conference made a recommendation in this regard: Dead organs should be allowed to be removed, unless they themselves object during their lifetime or their relatives object after death. Hoppe said that this means that a "modified objection regulation" is at least being discussed in Germany as well. The resolution speaks of the "model of a self-determination solution with information and the obligation to explain". At present, organs can only be removed if the donor indicates his or her willingness to do so during his or her lifetime.

The doctors justify the change with the long wait of about 12.000 seriously ill patients waiting for life-saving donor organs. Every day three of them die because they cannot be helped. "We want to stop the suffering of waiting lists," said Theodor Windhorst, president of the Westphalia-Lippe Medical Association.

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