Assisted suicide not to be legalised

Counsellors in Switzerland are allowed to help terminally ill patients to die

The Swiss parliament has rejected a proposal to decriminalise euthanasia. However, assisted suicide remains tolerated under current regulations.

This content was published on December 11, 2001 minutes

The House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a proposal to legalise euthanasia for incurably sick patients who repeatedly asked to be allowed to die to end their suffering.

The proposal was put forward by a leading cancer specialist, Franco Cavalli, who is also a Social Democratic member of parliament. Cavalli said during the debate that many medical doctors would welcome a change in the law.

However, a majority in parliament as well as the main Swiss Medical Association came out against easing the regulations.

Legal loopholes

The right to die in Switzerland is clouded in legal uncertainty. A loophole in Swiss law allows trained counsellors to help with assisted suicide by preparing a fatal overdose for someone who is terminally ill and has made repeated requests to die.

But the counsellors, who do not have to be medical doctors, are not allowed to administer the drugs. This would be considered a criminal offence.

No additional restrictions

Parliament also rejected a proposal to impose restrictions on euthanasia organisations, including Exit and Dignitas. A majority voted down special rules restricting euthanasia activists.

However, the House called on the government to consider measures to promote palliative medicine, including methods to alleviate pain for patients.

Court case

In September a male nurse confessed to having killed of 27 elderly and infirm patients in convalescence homes around the city of Lucerne. The man, who has not yet appeared in court, said he acted out of compassion.

The case sparked a widespread debate in Switzerland and it is believed that it is likely only one of many.

swissinfo with agencies

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