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Assisted Suicides in Switzerland on the Rise
- Updated: August 24, 2014
According to new information released in the Journal of Medicine Ethics, the number of people going to Switzerland for assisted suicide is on the rise. In fact, from 2008 to 2012, numbers increased by more than 30%. In 2012, alone, there were 172 cases of what is now referred to as “suicide tourism”, up from 123 just four years prior.
These statistics came from death records from a database at the University of Zurich. Because assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, death records capture this type of information. Although there were people from the United States and other countries seeking assistance with suicide, the majority came from the United Kingdom and Germany.
Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland for more than 60 years. According to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, assisted suicide is not historically a part of a doctor’s activity and while there are some who do provide this service, it is not always performed by a medical professional. Doctors are told they can assist terminally ill patients but even then, there are very strict rules. If assisted suicide is deemed to have selfish motives, it is actually considered a crime under Article 115 of the Swiss penal code.
Even so, there are a growing number of people going to Switzerland specifically for this service. For the period of 2008 to 2009, numbers had declined significantly although no one is sure why, nor are they sure why the numbers are again rising. However, Dr. Julian Mausbach, a researcher and study author with the Zurich University Center of Excellence for Medicine, Ethics, and Law, believes it has to do with loos regulations.
Because there is some mystery as to why so many people are now seeking assisted suicides, experts agree new studies are needed. Dr. Mausbach states that there are concerns both legally and ethically. For instance, he and others question why so many people make the trip to Switzerland simply to end life.
He also questions whether it is appropriate for Switzerland to be involved with assisted suicides for these people when the issue is not being addressed by laws in their own countries. Dr. Mausbach also raises the point of potential risks for Switzerland financially, specific to who is paying since each service runs approximately $3,000 a person.
“Right-to-die” organizations typically follow very tight guidelines regarding who they will help with suicide. Typically, it consists of people with some type of terminal illness, those who are suffering, and people who have a consistent desire to die but who are also of sound judgment.
In Switzerland, there are multiple organizations that offer assisted suicide such as the non-profit group Dignitas, This well-known group supports people’s right to die and as such, was involved with almost of the “suicide tourism” incidences in the new study. As stated by the leader of Dignitas, Silvan Luley, the company “is not offering anything really new or innovative. In fact, it is quite banal”.