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Trying to Discourage Suicide Tourism

With Support from the Zurich Parliament, a referendum to discourage “suicide tourism” in Switzerland will be held on 28Nov10. The measure is aimed at curtailing the suicide trade of Dignitas, the clinic near Zurich that has assisted the suicides of over 1000 people, mostly foreigners.

If passed, the referendum would limit legal suicide assistance to those who have lived in Zurich for one year. It would also set a steep fine of up to 50,000 Swiss francs ($46,000 US) against Dignitas if it violates the year residency requirement. It is expected that Ludwig Minelli, executive director of Dignitas, would pass the fine on to his customers — a huge expense that most could not afford.
[World Radio Switzerland, 11Jan10; London Telegraph, 23Jan10; International Task Force Update, 2010, vol. 24, no. 1,]


Assisted Suicide Clinic Switzerland announced plans to crack down on “suicide tourism”, signaling that it might close the Dignitas clinic that is responsible for killing hundreds of people via assisted suicide.

The draft bills could set off a rush of people from Britain and elsewhere in Europe to travel to Switzerland to kill themselves before the changes take place. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the Justice Minister, said that two options would be presented to parliament.

Either clinics such as Dignitas and Exit, which deals chiefly with Swiss patients, will have to accept much stricter regulation or they will be closed down.

The tightening of the rules would require patients to present two medical opinions declaring their disease incurable, that death is expected within months and that they have made their decision of sound mind and fully aware of their options.

“It won’t be possible in future for someone to cross the border and commit suicide a few days later with the help of an organization,” Widmer-Schlumpf said. She did not stipulate how long the waiting period should last because it would vary based on each individual case.

But the assisted suicide clinics are financially dependent on large numbers of patients passing relatively quickly through the system and it has benefited from lax local laws. If the bill passes, the federal government would take over enforcement of the laws from regional authorities.

Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, criticized the proposals and claimed the government would be promoting suicide over assisted suicide. Minelli also says that the bills, if passed, would prompt other countries to look at legalizing assisted suicide as they have resisted knowing that residents can easily travel to Switzerland and other nations like the Netherlands where it is legal.

Approximately 400 people turned to suicide centers in Switzerland in 2007 with 132 people coming from other nations and 199 of them from Britain. [Zurich, Switzerland,]