Assisted suicides go up at Exit to more than 450

Since 2008 the average age for those making use of Exit has risen from 74 to 77 Keystone

Swiss assisted suicide organisation Exit helped 459 people end their lives in 2013, 100 more than the previous year. Membership also increased by more than 8,000.

This content was published on March 31, 2014 minutes and agencies

The Zurich-based organisation, which supports the right to self-determination, said last year it had received more than 2,000 enquiries from people looking to die, an increase of 18%.

In its annual report, published on Monday, Exit said reasons for this increase included the strong growth in membership, increasing awareness of the organisation and an aging population.

People most commonly opted for assisted suicide when they were in the end stages of terminal cancer or were suffering from physical degeneration connected to old age or chronic pain diseases.

Since 2008 the average age for those making use of Exit has risen from 74 to 77.

Last year, more than new 8,000 people became members of Exit, bringing the total number in German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland to 70,000. Most live in Zurich, Basel and Bern.

Of these, 60% are women and have an average age of more than 60, Exit said. Most new members are typically around 50 years old.

Assisted suicide in Switzerland

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

Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates that has been prescribed by a doctor. Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or through the use of intravenous drips or stomach tubes, must be carried out by the person wanting to die.

A 2006 decision by the Swiss Federal Court ruled that all people of sound judgment, irrespective of whether they suffer from a mental illness, have the right to decide the manner of their death.

The government examined various options to regulate assisted suicide practices and in June 2011 decided not to seek changes in the law, but to boost suicide prevention and palliative care.

Switzerland has two main groups which cater to people who seek an assisted suicide, Exit and Dignitas.

Although men are much more likely to commit suicide, representing three-quarters of Switzerland’s 1,400 cases annually, women are in the majority in assisted suicide.

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