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Assisted Death in Europe and AmericaFour Regimes and Their Lessons$
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Guenter Lewy

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199746415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199746415.001.0001

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Assisted Suicide in Switzerland

Assisted Suicide in Switzerland

(p.88) 4 Assisted Suicide in Switzerland
Assisted Death in Europe and America

Guenter Lewy

Oxford University Press

According to the Swiss Criminal Code, assisted suicide is illegal only if done “for selfish motives.” While in other jurisdictions only physicians are allowed to engage in the practice of assisted death, in Switzerland the actual assistance in suicide can and usually is performed by non-physicians. This chapter examines the role of several right-to-die organizations that offer the service of assisted death. Among these, Exit-German Switzerland stands out as operating in a fairly responsible manner, while the organization Dignitas caters to suicide tourism from other countries and often is charged as operating for profit. While the law requires a doctor's prescription for the lethal medication that is used by patients committing suicide, medical scrutiny appears to be slight. For the year 1996, for example, Exit reported an acceptance rate of 86%, which contrasts with 37% of granted applications by doctors in the Netherlands. While the Swiss public is broadly supportive of the practice of assisted death, there has developed concern about the lax rules that govern the practice of assisted death by Swiss right-to-die organizations. The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and a National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics have proposed guidelines that seek a more restrictive regulation. In 2009, the federal government finally proposed legislation that would circumscribe the practice of assisted death, but it is not clear whether the Swiss parliament will adopt such a law.

Keywords:   Switzerland, assisted suicide, right-to-die organizations, Exist-German Switzerland, Dignitas, suicide tourism

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