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Swiss doctor sentenced for helping healthy woman to die

Dr. Pierre Beck at Geneva courthouse
Beck, the regional vice-president of EXIT, says he does not regret his action and that the woman was "suffering intensely". Keystone

A court in Geneva has given a suspended sentence to the regional vice-president of EXIT, Pierre Beck, for helping an 86-year-old woman to die when she was not sick.   

He was found guilty of breaking federal law on therapeutic substances and given a suspended 120-day jail sentence. The court thus confirmed a criminal order issued by the Office of the Attorney General of SwitzerlandExternal link.    

Beck, a medical doctor who is vice-president of EXITExternal link in francophone Switzerland, provided a lethal dose of pentobarbital in April 2017 for the elderly woman. She wanted to die with her husband, who was very ill.   

The defence had argued for acquittal, saying he had acted on “a well thought through decision”. Beck admitted he had “gone a little beyond EXIT’s assisted suicide criteria”, but that he did not regret his action. “I am convinced that this lady was suffering intensely,” he said. 

However, the judges deemed that assisting suicide for existential reasons is not permitted by Swiss law. They considered that he had agreed to the woman’s request through altruism, but also personal conviction, and that he should have sought the advice of other doctors. 

“I am being reproached for having acted alone, and if it were to happen again I would do the same, but probably ask for advice,” Beck told Swiss television RTS. “I admit I went over the limits, but I was in an unusual situation and wanted absolutely to avoid this woman killing herself violently, which she seemed certain to do.”  





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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR