Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Switzerland: Come for the Alps, Not the Assisted Suicide.

Switzerland is considering altering it's laws to prevent or limit "suicide tourism," the practice of those who wish to hasten their deaths from traveling to Switzerland to take advantage of the country's liberal assisted suicide laws.

SwissInfo writes:

The cabinet on Wednesday presented two draft bills defining conditions for organised euthanasia, including medical confirmations of a terminally ill patient's death wish, the use of approved medicines and clear documentation of every case.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the purpose of the planned regulation was to slow down the process of assisted suicide and prevent people from travelling to Switzerland only for this specific purpose.

In 2007 there were about 400 cases of assisted death in Switzerland, including 132 people from Britain and Germany.

Assisted suicide and passive euthanasia are currently legal in Switzerland – a policy which makes it one of the most liberal European countries.

Widmer-Schlumpf said it was not up to the state to help people die.

"We believe suicide prevention and palliative care for patients are the priorities," Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference.

She added that a regulation on assisted suicide remained a very delicate matter not only involving law but also ethics.

The government also published an alternative option that foresees an outright ban on organised assisted suicide.

Political parties and organisations have four months to give their opinion on the two proposals before cabinet prepares a final bill for discussion in parliament.

In an initial reaction, two leading right-to-die organisations have accused the government of trying to deprive citizens of their right to self-determination and responsibility.

This new development in Switzerland may be the result of lawsuits and attention in other countries. Recently the case of Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis patient who successfully sued the British government to allow her husband to help her travel to Switzerland when she decides to end her life, has caused an uproar in Britain. They have since revised their laws on assisting suicide, which is illegal there.

As well, I suspect the country would rather be know for their other fine offerings, like the Alps and chocolate, and those cute barns with wood stacked under the eaves and geraniums spilling out of flower boxes. So maybe it's an image thing?

Read more here: ABCNews

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