Switzerland

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Current law regarding assisted suicide

The practice of assisted suicide in Switzerland has led many people to believe that the practice has been legalized in that country.  That is not the case.  There is an important distinction between the Swiss situation and that of Oregon, the Netherlands and Belgium where the law considers euthanasia and/or assisted suicide to be “medical treatment.”

According to Swiss law, “Whoever, from selfish motives, induces another to commit suicide or assists him therein shall be punished, if the suicide was successful or attempted, by confinement in a penitentiary for not more than five years or by imprisonment.”
Source:  Article 115 of the Penal Code of Switzerland (emphasis added).

The key words are “from selfish motives.”  Thus, in Switzerland, there is no prosecution if the person assisting a suicide successfully claims that he is acting unselfishly.  While this results in de facto legalization, assisted suicide is not legal, only unpunishable, unless a selfish motive is proven.  It should also be noted that there is no illusion that assisted suicide is a medical practice.  The person assisting a suicide need not be a medical professional to escape prosecution.

“Switzerland’s ‘peculiar institution'”
(BioEdge — June 4, 2013)
What is the position of the law on assisted suicide in Switzerland?  Journalists often make the mistake of asserting that euthanasia is allowed there. This is not true: only assisted suicide — but this has been legal, astonishingly, since the 1930’s.

LAW EXPANDED TO REQUIRE HEALTH FACILITIES TO PERMIT ASSISTED SUICIDE

On June 17, 2012, sixty-two percent of voters in the French-speaking Canton of Vaud approved a law that requires nursing homes and hospitals, called Socio-medical Establishments (SME’s) to permit assisted suicide in their facilities.
The initiative requested that the Swiss Law on Public Health of May 29, 1985 be amended as follows:
“The introduction of an Article 71 (b) entitled ‘Assisted suicide in SMEs’ with the following text: ‘SMEs in receipt of public subsidies must allow assistance for suicide to be provided in their establishments for any resident who makes a request to this effect to an association supporting the right to die with dignity or to the doctor responsible for his or her treatment, in accordance with Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code and Article 34  (2) of the Constitution of the Canton of Vaud.” (emphasis added)

COURT CASE

Alda Gross, a Swiss citizen, has filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights to force the government of Switzerland to ensure her right to obtain lethal drugs to end her life.  Gross, who has no known pathological condition contends that she has the right to assisted suicide because she’s frail and has no desire to continue life.
The European Court of Human Rights impacts 47 countries making the outcome of importance throughout Europe.
On March 20, 2012, the Alliance Defense Fund, an American legal advocacy organization, filed as a Third Party Intervener brief in the case.

ARTICLES

“Zurich doctor fined for not reporting assisted suicide”
(Swiss Info — April 11, 2016)
Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death….Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates that has been prescribed by a doctor.  Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or through the use of intravenous drips or stomach tubes must be carried out by the person wanting to die.
More on drugs used for assisted suicide

“Healthy retired nurse ends her life because old age ‘is awful'”
(Telegraph — August 2, 2015)
Gill Pharaoh, 75 years old, traveled to Switzerland to die at a suicide clinic.  “The thought that I may need help from my children appalls me,” she said. I” know many old people expect, and even demand, help from their children but I think this is a most selfish and unreasonable view.”

“Swiss Right-to-Die Group Gets Green Light for New Suicide Room”
(NDTV — July 6, 2015)
Exit, which provides lethal drugs to help people die, said the Basel canton’s local building council had dismissed objections to its plan to convert part of its office in Binning, Switzerland into an assisted suicide room….In 2011, voters in the canton of Zurich rejected a proposed ban on assisted suicide and “suicide tourism.” A year later, the national parliament voted against tightening controls on the practice.

“The ethics of new organ donation methods”
(Swiss Info — December 14, 2014)
Is it ethical to use organs from people who have died with assisted suicide?  Biomedical ethicist David Shaw [of the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basil] believes it’s one of the ways to try and counter organ donor shortages.
More on Organ Donation

“Swiss suicide clinic helped SECOND woman ‘tired of life’ to die”
(Express — UK — April 13, 2014)
The 99-year-old, who was not terminally ill or severely disabled, felt her time had come to an end.

“Teacher died at Dignitas because she couldn’t bear modern life”
(Daily Mail — April 7, 2014)
The 89-year-old, from Sussex, said she couldn’t keep up with modern life.  She claimed new technology had ruined face-to-face human relationships.  She was neither terminally ill nor disabled, but ended life at Swiss Clinic.

“Analysis of legal assisted suicide in Switzerland”
(BioEdge — March 8, 2014)
The right-to-die associations are not following the law, but the authorities do not seem to be reacting….  Nowadays, Swiss assisted suicide is “marketed” as a remedy for an unendurable disability….

“Healthy people are traveling abroad for assisted suicide because they grow ‘weary of life'”
(Mirror — UK — February 20, 2014)
Around 16 percent of the people who use ‘right-to-die-organizations such as Dignitas have no underlying health problems listed on their death certificates…Loneliness and feeling unloved are twice as likely to kill you as being fat.

“Italian woman,  85, ends her life at Swiss euthanasia clinic because she was upset about losing her looks”
(Daily Mail — February 20, 2014)
Oriella Caszzenello was healthy.  She disappeared without telling her relatives where she was going.  Her family, who had reported her missing, learned of her death after they received her ashes and death certificate from the clinic.

“Aided suicide in question after botched diagnosis”
(The Local — Switzerland — July 11, 2013)
A 62-year-old Italian magistrate was not gravely ill as he was told before he went to Switzerland for an assisted suicide.  An autopsy carried out by the University of Basel’s Institute of Forensic Medicine found that Pietro D’Amico was not suffering from a life-threatening illness at the time of his death.

“Coming Swiss Suicide Right for the Healthy?”
(National Review — May 26, 2013)
In Switzerland, a healthy woman who didn’t want to experience the decline of aging but was actually denied assisted suicide, has sued, claiming a doctor should be forced to prescribe for her. The court didn’t do that, but has ordered the country to create more clarity in its law about who has the legal right with help being made dead.

“EU court finds Swiss assisted-suicide laws vague”
(WAVY — May 22, 2013)
The Strasbourg, France-based court said Switzerland must specify whether its laws are meant to include people not suffering from terminal illnesses and, if so, spell out the conditions under which they can end their lives.

“Nurse traveled to Switzerland to end life in Dignitas clinic”
(Birmingham Mail — April 3, 2013)
Unable to swallow because of her debilitating illness, Diane Whittle consumed a large amount of pentobarbital, a lethal and short-acting barbiturate, by passing it through a feeding tube in her stomach.

“Significant stress after witnessing assisted suicide”
(BioEdge — October 6, 2012)
Relatives and friends of a person who commits assisted suicide have a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to a Swiss study in he latest issue of European Psychiatry.  “Witnessing the unnatural death of a significant person thus seems to have a strong impact on the bereaved, which may lead to severe mental health problems at 14 to 24 months post-loss.”

“Swiss parliament rejects tighter controls on suicide”
(Reuters — September 26, 2012)
Switzerland’s parliament voted against a bid to toughen controls on assisted suicide on Wednesday, rejecting concerns about foreigners traveling to the country to die….The number of Swiss residents who died by assisted suicide rose sevenfold between 1998 and 2009, according to official statistics, with almost 300 Swiss residents dying this way in 2009, compared to 43 in 1998.

“Vaud to get first Swiss assisted suicide law”
(Swiss News World Wide — June 17, 2012)
On June 17, 2012, the Swiss canton of Vaud voted in favour of a proposal obliging nursing homes and hospitals to accept the practice of assisted suicide in their facilities.  Exit, the pro-assisted suicide advocacy organization, estimates that 50 percent of the 1,600 old people’s and nursing homes in the German-speaking part of the country already allow assisted suicide under their roofs — up from 20 percent five years ago.

“More nursing homes allow assisted suicide”
(The Local — June 13, 2012)
In a recent poll of nursing home employees in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, more that 50 percent confirmed that assisted suicide was practised at their place of work; newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

“Swiss canton to vote on assisted suicide”
(The Local — June 1, 2012)
The people of the canton of Vaud will vote on June 17 to decide whether to require nursing homes and hospitals to accept assisted suicide on their premises.

“World-weary Swiss seniors seek suicide help”
(The Local — May 9, 2012)
New figures show that more and more Swiss seniors are taking advantage of assisted suicide even when they do not suffer from any terminal diseases.

“Swiss see steady rise in assisted suicides
(Associated Press — March 27, 2012)
Five out of every 1,000 deaths in Switzerland now involve assisted suicide, with women more likely to die this way than men, according to the first official figures released Tuesday.

“Case puts assisted suicide at crossroads”
( Swiss Info – – January 4, 2011 )
A regional criminal court in Boudry, canton Neuchatel, ruled that a doctor had no choice when she took the final step to end the life of a terminally ill patient….The court ruled that as there was no doubt about the patient’s wishes, the doctor in this case had a medical and moral duty to break the law out of compassion.

“Let the distraught partners of terminally ill who commit suicide die too, says Dignitas boss”
( Daily Mail – – October 19, 2010 )
Ludwig Minelli, the founder of the controversial Swiss clinic Dignitas, has said a person whose terminally ill partner commits suicide should also be given help to die – even if perfectly healthy. It is not the first time Minelli has argued health people should be given the legal right to die. Last year he said that he believed assisted suicide should be available ‘on demand.’

“Dignitas boss: Healthy should have right to die”
( BBC – – July 2, 2010 )
Ludwig Minelli, founder of Switzerland’s assisted-suicide clinic (Dignitas), says his death clinic services are available to anyone. Asked if he would assist in the suicides of people who are neither physically nor mentally ill, he said, “Of course… Why should we say no?”

“Dignitas founder is millionaire”
(Telegraph – – June 24, 2010)
Ludwig Minelli, the Swiss founder of Dignitas, has become a millionaire in the ten years since he set up his controversial suicide clinic.

“Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas probed after patient suffering from paranoid schizophrenia was given suicide kit”
( Daily Mail – – June 1, 2010 )
Mentally ill woman given suicide kit in Switzerland. Dignitas suicide clinic founder Ludwig Minelli defended the action, saying: “Every person in Europe has the right to choose to die, even if they are not terminally ill.”

Ashes of 50 Britons dumped in lake”
( The Sunday Times – – May 9, 2010 )
The remains of up to 50 Britons who ended their lives at a controversial Swiss suicide clinic have been dumped in a lake, according to a nurse who worked at the organization.

“Death Becomes Him”
( The Atlantic – – March 1, 2010 )
Over the past decade, Ludwig Minelli has helped more than 1,000 people kill themselves and has turned Zurich into the undisputed world capital of assisted suicide.

“Cashing in on despair?”
( Daily Mail – January 25, 2009 )
The black plastic bin liners were bulging and cluttered the back stairs to the office of Ludwig Minelli, founder and head of the assisted suicide organisation Dignitas. Soraya Wernli was new to the job as a ‘companion’, one of those hired by Minelli, 75, to assist people in their final journey to the ‘other side’.