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Swiss prosecutors in the region of Zurich have instituted stricter regulations that are intended to curb the growing problem of “suicide tourism,” reports The Telegraph.

Numerous high-profile cases over the last several years of foreigners traveling to Switzerland to commit suicide – including the recent case of a renowned U.K. conductor and his wife – have brought the country’s macabre suicide trade into the limelight, and appear to have triggered concerns by Swiss officials that their country is becoming famous largely for being the premiere spot in the world to kill oneself.

As of late last year approximately 100 U.K. residents had committed suicide with the help of the Swiss group Dignitas, although individuals from numerous other countries have also used Dignitas’ “services.”

Prosecutors in Zurich have now announced arrangements with the country’s second largest assisted suicide group, EXIT, that will see significant restrictions placed upon the process of obtaining the group’s help in committing suicide, reports the Telegraph.

The new regulations come three years after federal Swiss politicians declined to institute any new legislation to address the growing problem. Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher said in June 2006 that “the cabinet had come to the conclusion that [new legislation] was not necessary.”

Cabinet spokesman, Christoph Blocher, also said there were also no plans to examine or monitor Dignitas or other euthanasia groups, that to do so would create too much “bureaucracy” and lend such groups legitimacy.

While the federal government has demurred from addressing the situation however, it appears that the local government in whose district hundreds of people have killed themselves for a fee, are less willing to let the suicide trade continue totally unbothered.

The new regulations will require that prospective suicide customers go through an extended counseling period, over a period of several months, to ensure that they truly wish to die. In addition, the doctors who prescribe the fatal drugs must meet the person at least twice. The regulations also place a cap on what people can be charged for suicide.

Zurich Justice Minister Markus Notter said, in announcing the new regulations: “Suicide trips to Switzerland are not going to be banned but there are going to be stricter controls; so called ‘quick suicides’ for foreign patients are set to be outlawed.

“It is essential that people decide by their own free will. They also need to be informed about alternatives such as palliative care.”

While EXIT president Hans Wehrli publicly welcomed the new regulations (which are set to go into effect in the fall), Dignitas president Ludwig Manelli lambasted them, characterizing them as being directly targed at Dignitas and consistent with a “police state.” Once the regulations go into effect, Dignitas will either have to abide by them or move their operations out of Zurich, according to the Telegraph.

That EXIT would be more open to the regulations is unsurprising, however, since the group already has a policy of refusing suicide requests from foreigners. Dignitas, on the other hand, has developed a reputation for its openness to and outright encouragement of suicide tourism, as well as its extreme position on who should or should not be permitted to legally commit suicide.

Dignitas has also been heavily criticized for its large fees and has been accused of being in the business simply to make a profit.

Bioethicist Wesley Smith responded to the news about the new regulations by pointing out that Dignitas and Exit are doing little to boost Switzerland’s profile on the world stage.

“Switzerland is Jack Kevorkian as a country, a fact that for some, is becoming an embarrassment,” he observed. “To try and put a modicum of control on the situation … the Zurich prosecutor has decided to impose a few limits.”

Smith said, however, that the new rules are bound to do little to curb what has become a significant problem. “This only applies in the Zurich area, and besides, is so much hoop jumping,” he said. “The only way to stop suicide tourism is to make assisted suicide illegal.

“Until people ‘get’ that one can’t be for and against suicide at the same time, these restrictions are mere leaky plugs in the dikes that, if they ever apply nationwide, will probably be violated in a very public way.

Then watch as law enforcement backs down.”

Wealthy UK Couple Die at Swiss Dignitas Suicide Facility

Swiss Lure Suicide Victims: Euthanasia Administered Within 24 Hours

Neighbors Complain Swiss Euthanasia ‘Clinic’ Parade of Dead Bodies Disturbing

Mentally Ill have a Right to Assisted Suicide ~ Swiss High Court [20 July 09, John Jalsevac, Zurich, Switzerland,]


SWITZERLAND EUTHANASIA CENTER KILLS NEARLY 900 SINCE OPENING, MORE BRITS. The Switzerland-based Dignitas euthanasia center released figures Wednesday about the people it has killed since opening. Dignitas says more people than ever are opting to have the staff take their lives and that the number of Britons going there to die is on the rise.

UK residents are now in the top three nationalities of the people who go to the euthanasia center.

The euthanasia center has killed 868 in assisted suicides since it began and 335 people in the last two years alone. About 85 percent of the people who die there are foreign nationals with the rest hailing from Switzerland.

Dignitas director Ludwig Minelli told The Sun newspaper that half of the people who die there are German and British and French residents account for most of the rest.

He claimed the euthanasia center uses a rigorous process to weed out potential applicants and claims most people who apply for an assisted suicide never undergo one.

“For every 100 applicants, only 12 are given the go-ahead by us. The rest either choose to wait or never get in touch again. People are eased knowing there is an emergency exit,” he claimed.

However, the euthanasia group’s activity has not been without controversy.

In January 2007, it came under fire after a German woman apparently suffered tremendous pain when she died at one of its facilities. A 43-year-old women screamed in pain for over four minutes before her death.

Friends who accompanied her to her death told the newspaper the woman cried out, “I’m burning, I’m burning” and then fell into a coma. She was reportedly comatose for 38 minutes before finally succumbing to the drug.

Meanwhile, neighbors who live next-door to the Dignitas center on the outskirts of Zurich have complained about the frequency of dead bodies taken from the apartment where the assisted suicides take place. Dignitas removes the corpses from the apartment via a communal lift that other residents use as well.

Dignitas started doing assisted suicides in the Zurich flat eight years ago.

Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture, has previously said Dignitas is doing a disservice to the disabled and elderly.

“Dignitas admits to having assisted the suicides of many people who were not terminally ill. As Minelli succinctly put it, ‘We never say no,'” Smith explained.

“Minelli’s position has a large constituency among euthanasia believers. Indeed, over the years, the movement has left many telltale signs that assisted suicide is not intended ultimately to be restricted to the imminently dying,” he said.

Smith worries that, should Dignitas take its assisted suicide centers worldwide that a right to die will turn into a duty to die.

“Once assisted suicide is accepted in law and culture, the premises of radical autonomy and allowing killing to alleviate human suffering would conjoin, unleashing the irresistible power of logic that would push us inexorably toward the humanist nirvana of death on demand,” Smith says. [28May08, Ertelt, Zurich, Switzerland,]