Self-determination at the end of life

Study conference in Tübingen on Saturday, October 15, 2022 – with an additional offer for interested parties on Sunday, October 16, 2022

Self-determination in all areas of life is considered a valuable asset in our time and society. When it comes to old age and illness, many people fear above all the loss of their self-determined lifestyle. In the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling on assisted suicide in February 2020, the right to autonomy is confirmed by the highest court not only with regard to the conduct of life, but also with regard to the time of death: “The individual’s decision to end their life in accordance with their understanding of quality of life and the meaningfulness of their own existence must be accepted by the state and society as an act of autonomous self-determination.”

The study day aims not only to take up the discussion about assisted suicide, but also – in the biophilic sense of Erich Fromm – to ask more fundamentally about the possibilities and limits of autonomy at the end of life. It focuses on the life situations of people at the end of life and in care, as well as psychoanalytical, ethical, cultural and socio-critical considerations.

The event will take place on the premises of the Global Ethic Institute and the Erich Fromm Institute, which are located in the same building on the edge of Tübingen’s old town. The conference program with lectures and discussions will take place on Saturday from 9:45 am to 5:30 pm. On Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. there will also be the opportunity for in-depth discussions and a guided tour of the Erich Fromm Institute.EFIT WEIT View

Conference fee:

Participation with lunch on Saturday: 20 €

Participation without lunch: 10 €

Participation as a student without lunch: free of charge

Please book overnight stays on your own if required.

Register for the conference

Conference content

How do we want to grow old? How should our lives end? Who decides on our last phase of life and our death? Self-determination is widely demanded by society and does not stop at the end of life. Everyone is expected to actively shape their own life, with autonomy until the end. The change in social opinion was reflected in the reasoning, comments and debates on the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling on assisted suicide on February 26, 2020.

What does the “art of living” demand of us when it comes to ageing and dying? “I want to shape my own life – and decide on it myself” is not so easy. Conflicts between dependencies and the desire for self-determination must be managed throughout life. A sense of solidarity is also not a given, in which one feels socially embedded, dependent and committed to others. Everyone does not live on their own, but needs others and stays alive for others.

The feelings of powerlessness and fear that threaten our self and our self-determination find a way out in a striving for dissolution of boundaries. Anything goes! Even in children’s bedrooms, computer games are used to interactively roam infinite worlds, create identities and virtually trade in multiple lives. In these new spheres of experience, the previously predetermined boundaries of the human condition seem to evaporate. We can escape the existential dimension of dying for a long time until the relentless reality of finiteness hits us with full force. For others who are terminally ill (alive), the
culturally mediated escape mechanisms, they come to the point after a long struggle: “I’ve had enough!

At this conference, we will critically examine the opportunities and limits of self-determination with regard to the end of life from the perspectives of ageing research, ethics and cultural philosophy and psychoanalysis. We want to deal with the situation of elderly people in the last phase of their lives. The new medical and legal options for ending one’s life in a self-determined way are examined, and the conscious and unconscious motives for self-determination are explored. We want to sharpen people’s awareness of cultural and social (mis)developments.


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