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First data on assisted suicide published

Cases of assisted suicide in Switzerland have gradually increased over a decade to reach nearly 300 in 2009, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

The first-ever official figures on the issue, published on Tuesday, show fewer than 50 Swiss residents resorted to assisted suicide to end their lives in 1998 - about six times less than in 2009.

Most people were over the age of 55 and suffered from cancer.

No figures are available for the period before 1998.

The Statistics Office said international comparisons were difficult as legislation varied considerably from one country to the next.

The Swiss government last year decided to drop plans for specific legislation on assisted suicide. The method is legal if performed by a non-physician with no vested interest.

There are two main organisations, Exit and Dignitas, which offer their services to terminally ill patients.

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