Switzerland cabinet proposes restrictions on assisted suicide laws

[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Counsel [official website] on Wednesday announced proposals [press release] to restrict the country's assisted suicide laws. The new guidelines will seek to prevent assisted suicide becoming a profit-driven business and to ensure that it is only available to the terminally ill. One of the proposals imposes criminal liability on those who assist unless certain stipulations are met. Those seeking assisted suicides will have to freely declare their wish to die and be given time to consider their decision. Patients will also need to show two medical certificates from independent doctors proving their capacity to make a decision and the existence of a terminal illness. Additionally, the regulations will ban the commercialization of the practice. The Swiss government believes that such restrictions will prevent the abuse of the practice and lessen "suicide tourism" in the country. Also proposed for parliamentary discussion is a complete ban on organized assisted suicide.

Last month, the UK released an interim policy [JURIST report] on assisted suicide that lists factors to be considered in determining which cases to prosecute. The interim policy was published pursuant to a July order [judgment text; JURIST report] from the UK Law Lords [official website] to clarify the issue. The order resulted from a case brought by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, who wanted to travel to Switzerland with her husband to end her life. Under the UK's Suicide Act 1961 [text], Purdy's husband faces criminal liability for aiding her suicide in another country. Many Britons have reportedly gone to the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] in Switzerland to obtain assisted suicides. In the US, assisted suicide is permitted by law in Washington state and Oregon. In May, a Washington state woman became the first person to commit physician-assisted suicide under the Death with Dignity Act [text, PDF; JURIST report].

 

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