Swiss mull tightening rules on assisted suicide groups

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The Swiss government has laid out options to tighten rules on assisted suicide in a bid to prevent abuse by organisations offering euthanasia.

Geneva--In one of two options suggested, it tabled an outright ban on organisations offering assisted suicide, although it made clear that it preferred a second option of imposing more stringent rules on such organisations.

"Essentially, the Federal Council does not wish to take anything away from the current, liberal legislation, which permits someone to assist a suicide provided they are not motivated by their own interests," it said in a statement.

"However, since assisted suicide organisations are increasingly testing the boundaries of the law, and in some cases evading state and professional monitoring mechanisms, the Federal Council sees an urgent need to lay down guidelines and restrictions."

It said it was leaning towards the option of imposing certain "duties of care," such as requiring such groups to help only those who freely declare the will to die after having thoroughly considered the issue.

The organisations must also require two certificates from doctors unrelated to the organisations proving that the person wanting to die is not only able to make a sound decision, but also suffering from a terminal illness that will lead to death within a short period of time.

"This would rule out organised assisted suicide for those with chronic illnesses that are not in themselves terminal, and for those suffering mental illness," said the government.

Further, the organisations must not be profit driven, and each case must be documented "comprehensively" to deal with any possible investigations.

"The Federal Council firmly believes that, by determining these duties of care, the negative aspects and abuse of organised assisted suicide can be prevented, and suicide tourism can be reduced," it added.

It also offered a complete ban on assisted-suicide groups as an alternative to these stricter rules.

Groups offering help in euthanasia criticised the proposals, Swiss news wire ATS reported

One of these organisations, Exit, described the restrictions as "unacceptable."

Another group, Dignitas, said that if associations were banned from offering assisted suicide to people suffering from chronic illnesses or psychiatric problems, it could lead to "solitary suicides on railway tracks or from high bridges."

Dignitas has been severely criticised here for its activities and has been forced to resort to operating sometimes in hotel rooms and even cars.

It is the only group that allows foreigners to come to die in Switzerland, while other organisations only deal with Swiss nationals.

More than 100 Britons, mostly terminally ill, have died with the help of Dignitas.

In one of its more controversial cases, Dignitas was criticised for helping Briton Daniel James, 23, to commit suicide last year after he was paralysed while playing rugby.

Assisted-suicide organisations helped about 400 people to die in 2007, ATS reported, adding that the number of foreigners coming to Switzerland to die was rising.

AFP/ Expatica


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