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Goodall death Bishop weighs in to assisted suicide debate

The bishop of Basel

Swiss Roman Catholic bishops like Felix Gmür are against euthanasia and assisted suicide

(Keystone)

Bishop of Basel Felix Gmür has criticized the publicity surrounding a recent assisted suicide in Switzerland, saying the commercialisation of suicide is “cynical”.

The catholic bishop was speaking after the recent assisted suicide in Basel of 104-year-old Australian botanist David Goodall. Gmür’s comments come in an interview published on Saturday by the Schweiz am Wochenende weekly newspaper.

"People come to Switzerland to commit suicide and it is being marketed as if it were a public freedom," the bishop told the paper, saying it was scandalous to make a business model out of suicide.

Gmür said the publicity surrounding Goodall’s death had given a “wrong signal”. “It should not happen that unemployed people or retired people under pressure start thinking they have no right to exist,” he said. 

+ Listen to some of David Goodall’s last words

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference is against euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world to allow assisted suicide, in which a person is given a lethal drug to administer themselves.

The Alpine nation has three assisted suicide organizations catering to foreigners: Dignitas, Basel’s Life Circle and Ex International in Bern (no relation to Exit International). 

Assisted suicide and euthanasia, where the lethal drug is administered by a doctor or medical staff, is at the heart of heated ethical debates that touch on religious, medical, legal and ethical questions. 

Goodall was not terminally ill but considered that his quality of life at 104 was much reduced. He said he would "quite like to be remembered as an instrument of freeing the elderly from the need to pursue their life irrespectively."

SDA-ATS/jc

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