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Annual figures Assisted suicide group Exit registered 10,000 new members in 2017

A sign from exit refers to the organisation's general assembly in June 2017.

One reason for the consistently high demand for assisted suicide is our aging society.

(Keystone)

Last year, some 10,078 new members joined the euthanasia organisation Exit, the group announced on Tuesday. The number of actual assisted suicides went down slightly, whilst the average age of Exit members rose.

At the end of December 2017, the organisation had 110,391 members in German-speaking Switzerland and in Ticino, according to the figures in the press releaseexternal link. Last year, 734 people ended their lives using Exit’s services, compared with 723 the previous year. 

The number of requests from people thinking about assisted suicide was about 3,500 – that’s 1,000 more than in 2014. Exit considered 1,031 of those requests, compared with 991 in 2016.

The number of people choosing “an end of their suffering with the help of Exit" was 734 in 2017, the organisation wrote. Although men are generally much more likely to commit suicide, the majority of people using assisted suicide with Exit are women (60%).

Increased average age

Possible reasons for this consistently high demand for assisted suicide include the steady surge in membership year-on-year, but also an increasingly aging society. Last year, the average age of a person using Exit’s services increased to 78.1 years, from 76.7 years in 2016.

As in previous years, the most common conditions for which people sought the help of Exit were terminal cancer, age-related multiple illnesses as well as chronic pain.

+ Learn more about assisted suicide's place in Swiss society

Most of Exit’s patients came from the Zurich area, followed by the cantons of Bern, Aargau, St Gallen, Basel City and Basel Country.

Despite the recent expansion of palliative care, for which Exit has campaigned for 27 years, euthanasia fulfils a need among the population, the association said.

Assisted suicides remain rare, however, accounting only for about 1.5% of all 66,000 deaths in Switzerland each year, according to Exit. 

SDA-ATS/swissinfo.ch/ln

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