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Neuchâtel law Salvation Army ordered to permit assisted suicide

The Salvation Army, 'Die Heilsarmee' in German, argued in vain that life was a 'holy gift' from God

(Keystone)

A Christian nursing home in the French-speaking part of Switzerland must allow assisted suicide – per order of the Federal Court.

Located in canton Neuchâtel, the old age home belongs to the Salvation Army, an international Christian church and charitable organisation.

According to a cantonal law in effect since January 1, 2015, recognised charitable institutions – which receive subsidies – must respect a patient’s wish for assisted suicide on their premises; non-recognised institutions need only explain their position on assisted suicide.

The nursing home and the Salvation Army, which fall into the former category, filed a complaint against this, arguing it violated their religious beliefs and freedom of conscience.

But the federal judges in Lausanne ruled that, based on the right to self-determination, every individual is allowed to decide when and how he or she wants to die.

The state must respect this, they said, although it is not obliged to provide the necessary means: the issue is not so much the right to die but more the freedom to die, and the new law in Neuchâtel guarantees this freedom of choice.

The judges said that the clash between the freedom of religion and the right to self-determination was the result of the nursing home’s status as a charitable institution. The trade-off for enjoying subsidies was giving up total economic freedom and being subordinate to state control.

They pointed out that the nursing home could avoid the legal obligation by renouncing its charitable status, thereby losing government subsidies. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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