Bioethics News

Steep increase in Swiss assisted suicide

The latest government statistics for assisted suicides in Switzerland reveal a 26% increase over the previous year. Most of those who died by assisted suicide were said to be terminally ill.

According to Swiss.info, a government news service, In 2014 there were 742 cases of assisted suicide in Switzerland, more than 2.5 times as many as five years previously. Assisted suicide accounted for 1.2% of all deaths in Switzerland that year. Men and women were nearly equally represented in the assisted suicide numbers.

In 42% of cases, assisted suicides were provoked by cancer. Neurodegenerative disorders led to 14% of assisted suicides, followed by cardiovascular illnesses at 11% and musculoskeletal maladies at 10%. Most people who chose assisted suicide in 2014 lived in the canton of Zurich.

Assisted suicide has been permitted in Switzerland since the 1940s, but it has accelerated in recent years. It is legal if patients commit the act themselves and those assisting have no vested interest in their death.

Although Switzerland has become a Mecca for people from overseas who wish to commit suicide and it is accepted by the Swiss, it is still controversial. Earlier this year the editor of Swiss.info, Larissa M. Bieler, protested that the Swiss had not thought deeply enough about this:  

Palliative care is no panacea but it does allow an enlightened society to have a transparent discussion about death. This discussion is just as important for society as the right to autonomy. Assisted suicide has a positive image in Switzerland. In this moment of total dependence though, there are more humane ways to die than downing a cup of poison and simply fulfilling a desire for autonomy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.