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German court rejects damages for prolonging patient’s life

April 2, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — A German federal court has rejected a man’s claim for compensation for what he argued was needless suffering caused to his sick father by a doctor’s efforts to keep him alive.

The man’s father, who suffered from severe dementia and other problems, was fed by gastric tube from 2006 until his death five years later. The plaintiff argued that, by early 2010, that constituted a “senseless extension of the patient’s suffering.” A lower court awarded 40,000 euros ($45,000) in damages, finding the doctor should have consulted to a greater extent on whether the patient should still be fed.

The Federal Court of Justice overturned that ruling on Tuesday, finding there were no grounds for compensation. It said “human life is a top-ranking legally protected right and absolutely worthy of preservation.”