Who Lives, Who Dies

Last week, a woman in her mid-50s stood before the Vienna Regional Court because she assisted in the death of her partner. She says he would have wanted it that way. 

There is an unpleasant talk that families must have. The one where they think about the “what ifs” –what if I get sick; what if I get into an accident. What if I couldn’t decide for myself anymore whether I wanted to live or die? In Austria, active euthanasia is still punishable and falls under the offence of “murder,” “killing on demand,” or “participation in suicide.” Now, a Viennese woman is being charged for murder after carrying out what she says was her partner’s dying wish.

Renate E. says she had “the talk” with her then-70-year-old partner about life-supporting measures only days before his death. The Kurier reports that the man had a kidney transplant last year and never fully recovered from it. On April 6, 2018, his condition massively deteriorated. Renate E., who had been in a romantic relationship with her much-older partner since 2011, was summoned to the hospital and told by doctors that he would only have a few hours to live. Renate E. told the police afterwards that she hadn’t intended to end her partners life when she first arrived at the hospital and begged for him to wake up. She says that only after the inevitable dying process was explained to her did she decide to provide “euthanasia,” as she calls it, removing all vital tubes (including the breathing tube), even those that were stitched in.

Although it was clear that the man would not have lived much longer, prosecutors charged her with murder. It is irrelevant whether the death would have occurred a little later anyway, they said: “The action of the accused led to the death of the victim in its concrete form and was therefore causal for the death,” the Kronen Zeitung reports.

“We swore we’d be there for each other if worse came to worst,” Renate E. stated before court. “He said that if he was just lying around like a piece of smoked meat, I should pull the plug.”

A few days before, she says, her partner told her: “Sweetheart, help me. Release me. I want to die with dignity.” Renate E. does not have any evidence to support her testimony.

There hasn’t been a verdict yet. The trial will continue on October 22. The jury seemed to have an exceptionally high interest in the case and asked many questions. Renate E., for her part, maintains that to die would have been her partner’s wish – so she would do it all over again if she had to.


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Julia Seidl
Julia started out at "Die Presse." She went on to study "Journalism & Media Management" in Vienna and worked for several local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter before joining Metropole as online content and social media manager.

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