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Swiss Voters Overwhelmingly Support Assisted Suicide

Swiss Voters Overwhelmingly Support Assisted Suicide

Voters in Zurich, Switzerland supported the legality of assisted suicide in two measures which sought to ban the practice.  The first would have banned assisted suicide, which has been legal in Switzerland since 1941, completely, while the other proposed limiting assisted suicide to Zurich residents only, in an attempt to curb the tide of foreigners who take advantage of Switzerland’s liberal policy and travel to Switzerland to die.  85% of voters rejected the overall ban, and 78% voted against the second proposal. 

The results were a sweeping affirmation of Swiss support for assisted suicide, despite the fact that before the election, 66% of Swiss people were said to oppose “suicide tourism.”  Active suicide is illegal in Switzerland, so while patients can be prescribed deadly drugs, they must ingest them without any assistance from others.

The unease about “suicide tourism” came amid revelations that more and more people seeking assisted suicides do not suffer from a terminal illness, combined with the growing numbers of foreigners traveling to Switzerland to take their own life.  Overall, about 200 people commit assisted suicide in Zurich each year.  Although some organizations did not object to foreigners’ taking advantage of Switzerland’s liberal laws (one local organization, Dignitas, says that it has helped over 1,000 foreigners take their lives), others said that the decision required significant counseling and will thus only accept patients who reside in Switzerland.

“We cannot solve the dying problems of the rest of Europe,” Bernard Sutter, of the organization Exit, said. “And we think it is very sad that very ill people have to travel thousands of kilometres to go to a liberal country to die there.  These other countries should solve their own problems with dying people, so we would be happy if Germany, or Great Britain, would change their laws.”

Two conservative political parties supported the bans, but overall, the measures were unpopular politically.  According to the BBC, however, polls “show voters do want clearer national legislation setting out conditions under which assisted suicide is permitted,” and the Swiss government intends to revise federal regulations on assisted suicide.

Of course, if assisted suicide were legal in more countries, this might not be an issue.  It’s a tricky subject, and it’s understandable that the Swiss would want to support their legislation, which allows terminally ill people to die under their own terms, with dignity and respect.  But it’s certainly important enough that the Swiss government should make sure that patients and their families have undergone significant counseling and are fully committed to their decision.

 

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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38 comments

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10:54AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

Religion & only religion is to blame for this stupidity ...moral sin to God ??? i believe FORCING someone to Suffer is a moral sin this NEEDS to be changes ALL over the world

10:06AM PDT on May 24, 2011

It's so sad. But every person has the right to decide when an how to die, though the law has to protect people when familiars decide because the patient is not in the position to speak. Very wealthy people can become victims if the law doesn't provide protection in such cases.

8:16AM PDT on May 21, 2011

Very sad and scary.

4:38AM PDT on May 18, 2011

Why does the Christian Right interfere with the individual rights of dying people and their loved ones? Does God enjoy watching innocent people suffer? I ask those gullible enough to blindly follow their leader's religious doctrine, to think for yourselves.

11:27PM PDT on May 17, 2011

Amazing that we should be denied this basic human & civil right, though our animals have it! "Cruel & unusual punishment" is illegal here, yet forcing someone to die long, painful, lingering deaths (while their loved ones watch) is not? There should be an evaluation process, of course, but there should certainly be a dignified, legal, expedient way for people.

6:21PM PDT on May 17, 2011

Personal decision..

1:42PM PDT on May 17, 2011

I applaud the Swiss people for supporting assisted suicide and I wish more countries would do the same.

12:35PM PDT on May 17, 2011

Don't most of us suffer enough in our lifetimes to be granted a painless death if we so desire it? We treat our pets better than we do our terminally ill and those who are so miserable, they don't want to be here anymore.

12:06PM PDT on May 17, 2011

If I was dying in pain, I would want a doctor who would help me or my mother or my children. If I cannot get this from my doctor, I would fly anywhere to have a humane death.
We give this benefit to our pets which is a blessing but when it comes to us?

10:52AM PDT on May 17, 2011

It's your body and life you should be able to do what you want with it. If you feel like it is your time to "leave", than you should be able to leave.

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