Assisted suicide options set to shrink for Swiss abroad

Most assisted suicides involve a lethal dose of barbiturates. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss citizens living abroad may in future be rejected by assisted suicide organisation EXIT. The group says legal hurdles to euthanasia in other countries are making it increasingly difficult to offer its services to people outside of Switzerland.

This content was published on August 9, 2020 - 15:51

The NZZ am Sonntag reports that EXIT members have recently been informed of the changes. The organization told the Keystone-SDA news agency that a final decision would be taken next year once member feedback has been analysed. 

Some 2,600 of EXIT’s 130,000 members currently live abroad, according to the NZZ am Sonntag. The newspaper said that last year only five assisted suicides were of Swiss citizens living outside of home country.

EXIT said the proposed restrictions have been tabled because of the difficulties of carrying out assisted suicides for people living outside of Switzerland. In some cases, foreign laws prohibit euthanasia – and even when not, it can be hard to get the relevant medical records, creating bureaucratic problems.

Switzerland’s other assisted suicide organisation, Dignitas, does not exclude offering its services abroad.

Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death. Assisted suicide has been legal in the country since the 1940s. 

EXIT and Dignitas will only provide their services to people with a terminal illness, those living with extreme pain or “unbearable” symptoms, or with an unendurable disability. 

The person who wishes to die must also know what they are doing, not be acting on impulse, have a persistent wish to die, not be under the influence of any third party, and commit suicide by their own hand – usually with a lethal dose of barbiturates.

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