Saturday, October 31, 2009

Switzerland considers implementing restrictions to assisted suicide - possibly banning suicide tourism.

There have been many articles in the mainstream media showing how the Swiss law that allows assisted suicide is out-of-control and causing a concern for the Swiss government.

On October 28, Reuters reported that the Swiss government is looking to change the assisted suicide law to make sure that it is only used as a “last resort” for terminally ill people and that they would like to limit “suicide tourism”.

The issue of “Suicide Tourism” has become embarrassing for the Swiss due to the large number of high-profile suicide tourists from the UK, some of whom are not terminally ill, but simply tired of living and some cases were people who appear to be depressed.

The recent Canadian case of the couple from British Columbia who were seeking permission to die together at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland was particularly distressing. The husband had a chronic health condition and his wife was perfectly healthy.

The Swiss Justice Minister stated at a news conference in Berne:
“We have no interest, as a country, in being attractive for suicide tourism,”
A heated debate on the issue of suicide tourism has erupted in Switzerland due to the rise of suicide tourism and due to a study last year that indicated that many of the people who go to Switzerland for assisted suicide are not terminally ill.

The Swiss cabinet is divided on the issue. In response to their concerns they have made two proposals for a consultation that will continue until March 1, 2010. The first proposal is to tighten regulations and the second proposal is an outright ban on suicide tourism.

The Swiss Justice Ministry stated that the government did not want to change the law but assisted suicide groups have increasingly tested the boundaries of the law creating an urgent need for guidelines.

Assisted suicide groups Dignitas and Exit have opposed the government proposals and have stated that they will seek a referendum on the topic if the law is tightened or if “suicide tourism” is banned.

The proposal to ban suicide tourism is based on the concerns of the Justice Ministry that:
“... individuals working in assisted suicide organisations are never actually motivated by purely altruistic reasons, and may develop a close relationship with the suicidal person.” they added “Suicide must only be a last resort. The government believes that the protection of human life must be uppermost.”

The government has stated that:
“Assisted suicide should be restricted to terminally ill and not be available to chronically or mentally ill individuals.” The government stated that they: “wanted to promote palliative care and suicide prevention.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is hopeful that the Swiss government will restrict assisted suicide. Some media reports have indicated that the Swiss government might severely restrict assisted suicide, but the actual quotes from the Swiss government indicate that they want to eliminate “suicide tourism” and restrict assisted suicide to people who are terminally ill. Nonetheless, this is a step forward.

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