BERLIN        -        A five-year-old law banning professionally assisted suicide has been rejected as unconstitutional by Germany’s top court. The court backed complaints by a group of terminally ill patients and doctors who challenged the law that made “commercial promotion of assisted suicide” a criminal offence. Assisted dying had been legal.But the law change prompted terminally ill people to go to Switzerland and the Netherlands to end their lives. Advice centres that operated until 2015 had to stop working because of the risk of a jail sentence for promoting suicide. The law was aimed at stopping groups or individuals creating a form of business, by helping people to die in return for money. In practice it meant a ban on providing any type of “recurring” assistance. Medical ethics expert Gita Neumann, who has provided advice and support for years to people in their 80s said she knew of no doctor in Germany who had helped with assisted suicide in the past five years, because of the new clause in the criminal code. One of the plaintiffs, Dr Matthias Thöns, said that normal palliative work had become criminalised.