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Justice minister rethinks assisted-suicide bill

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf says she wants the government to rethink its proposal to tighten legislation on assisted suicide.

Widmer-Schlumpf, in a SonntagsZeitung newspaper interview, said assisted suicide should not only be limited to the terminally ill who are close to death.

In October last year, the justice minister presented two draft bills, one of which foresees an outright ban on right-to-die organisations such as Exit or Dignitas.

The other bill would introduce severe restrictions, including the need for two doctor's certificates to prove that a patient is suffering from an incurable and probably fatal illness and that patients are making an informed decision to end their lives.

The aim of the regulations is to limit so called "death tourism".

However, the proposals have been widely criticised, and not only by the right-to-die organisations.

All parties represented in government, with the exception of the centre-right Christian Democrats, have said the existing laws allowing assisted suicide and passive euthanasia ("mercy killing") are sufficient.

And the National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK) said the chronically ill should have access to assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide has been allowed in Switzerland since the 1940s if performed by someone who has no vested interest in the death. About 400 people committed assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2007 - a third of them came from Germany and Britain. and agencies

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