June 27, 2019

Switzerland vote supports assisted suicide

Client reunions for an organisation like Exit are a little tricky to run. A bit like the Successful Kamikaze Pilots Association.

Voters in Zurich, Switzerland, have rejected proposed bans on assisted suicide and “suicide tourism” by an overwhelming majority.

85% of the 278,000 votes cast opposed the ban on assisted suicide and 78% opposed outlawing it for foreigners, Zurich authorities said.

About 200 people commit assisted suicide each year in Zurich, including many foreign visitors.

It has been legal in Switzerland since 1941 if performed by a non-physician with no vested interest in the death.

Assistance can be provided only in a passive way, such as by providing drugs. Active assistance – helping a person to take or administer a product – is prohibited.

Opinion polls showed that most Swiss were in favour of assisted suicide. They were a little less keen on hundreds of foreigners coming there to die in what is known as suicide tourism.

Many citizens from Germany, France and other nations come to die in Switzerland because the practice remains illegal abroad.

One local organisation, Dignitas, says it has helped more than 1,000 foreigners to take their own lives.

Another group, Exit, will only help those who are permanently resident in the country – saying the process takes time, and much counselling for both patients and relatives.

Assistance can be provided only in a passive way, such as by providing drugs Its vice-president, Bernhard Sutter, said the result showed Swiss voters believed in “self-determination at the end of life”.

The referendum had offered a proposal to limit suicide tourism, by imposing a residency requirement of at least one year in the Zurich area in order to qualify for the service.

It was backed by two conservative political parties, the Evangelical People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union.

But the major parties of the left and right, including the Swiss People’s Party and the Social Democratic Party, had called on their supporters to vote against both motions.