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Top court eases burden of proof for assisted suicide for mentally ill

© Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court has acquitted a doctor who helped a woman commit assisted suicide even in the absence of a psychiatric report to prove mental illness.

Erika Preisig, a doctor and advocate for assisted suicide in Switzerland, was charged with potentially premeditated or negligent homicide by the public prosecutor in 2018 for helping a mentally-ill woman carry out assisted suicide in 2016. The homicide charge was dismissed by the cantonal court of Basel Country. However, the prosecutor appealed the verdict. The Federal Court ultimately ruled in the doctor’s favour, according to a decision made public on June 28.  

+ Why assisted suicide is ‘normal’ in Switzerland

Even though Preisig did not obtain a psychiatric report, she studied the medical records, had intensive discussions with the woman, asked those close to her and obtained a second opinion. That was deemed enough for the federal court.

With its judgment, the highest court reinforced the comparatively liberal assisted suicide practice in Switzerland. In the future, therefore, a psychiatric report will not necessarily be required to help mentally ill people to commit suicide.

In 2006, the Federal Supreme Court said that, in principle, one should also help mentally ill people to commit assisted suicide. But only if the wish to die is based on a well-thought-out decision by a person capable of making judgments.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR