Euthanasia in Switzerland

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In Switzerland, a total of 742 assisted suicides (320 men, 422 women) was recorded for 2014, compared to 1,029 non-assisted suicides (754 men, 275 women); most of the assisted suicides concerned elderly people suffering from a terminal disease.[1]

Euthanasia organisations have been widely used by foreigners, in what critics have termed suicide tourism. As of 2008, 60% of the total number of suicides assisted by the organisation Dignitas had been Germans.[2]

Legal situation[edit]

The Swiss Criminal Code of 1937 outlaws "incitement or assistance to suicide from selfish motives" (Art. 115). Any active role in voluntary euthanasia ("manslaughter on request") is also outlawed, even if committed from "respectable motives" such as mercy killings (Art. 114). However, by omission, assisted suicide from non-selfish motives remains legal. For example, lethal drugs may be prescribed as long as the recipient takes an active role in the drug administration, but active euthanasia (such as the act of administering a lethal injection) is not legal.[3] All forms of active euthanasia like administering lethal injection remain prohibited in Switzerland. Swiss law only allows providing means to commit suicide, and reasons for doing so must not be based on self-interest (such as monetary gain).[4] Based on this legal situation, non-profit organisations administering life-ending medicine were first established in Switzerland in the 1980s.

Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code reads:[3]

Inciting and assisting suicide: Any person who for selfish motives incites or assists another to commit or attempt to commit suicide shall, if that other person thereafter commits or attempts to commit suicide, be liable to a custodial sentence not exceeding five years or to a monetary penalty.

It should be noted, however, that the Swiss Criminal Code states that "English is not an official language of the Swiss Confederation. This translation is provided for information purposes only and has no legal force."[5]

This liberal regulation of assisted suicide also permits the assistance of voluntary euthanasia for non-resident foreigners, which has led to the phenomenon of "suicide tourism".[3]

When an assisted suicide is declared, a police inquiry may be started. Since no crime has been committed in the absence of a selfish motive, these are mostly open and shut cases. Prosecution can occur if doubts are raised about the patient's competence to make an autonomous choice, or about the motivation of anyone involved in assisting the suicide. While there is no regulation on permissible reasons for the suicide, the major Swiss non-profit organisations dedicated to assisted suicide may require that a terminal illness has been diagnosed.


A complaint against the health department of the canton of Zurich on the part of a man suffering from bipolar affective disorder and desiring to be issued with pentobarbital by the state in order to end his life was rejected in a Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland decision of 3 November 2006. The court conceded that "It cannot be denied that an incurable, long-lasting, severe mental impairment similar to a somatic one can create a suffering out of which a patient would find his/her life in the long run not worth living anymore" but found that no case can be made that the state has any obligation to facilitate the availability of substances used for euthanasia, as had been argued by the plaintiff based on both the Swiss Federal Constitution and on article 8 of the ECHR. [6]

In a referendum on 15 May 2011, voters in the canton of Zurich overwhelmingly rejected calls to ban assisted suicide or to outlaw the practice for non-residents. Out of more than 278,000 ballots cast, the initiative to ban assisted suicide was rejected by 85 per cent of voters and the initiative to outlaw it for foreigners was turned down by 78 per cent.[7][8][9][10]

In a 2007 essay in the Hastings Center Report, bioethicist Jacob M. Appel advocated adopting similar rules in the United States.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sterbehilfe und Suizid in der Schweiz 2014, Federal Statistical Office, published 11 October 2016. Total resident population in 2014: 8,236,666 (male 4,121,471, female 4,205,655) Die Bevölkerung der Schweiz 2014 BFS 348-1400, 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ Wenn Sie das trinken, gibt es kein Zurück Retrieved April 12, 2008
  3. ^ a b c Hurst SA, Mauron A (February 2003). "Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland: allowing a role for non-physicians". BMJ. 326 (7383): 271–3. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7383.271. PMC 1125125. PMID 12560284.
  4. ^ Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World, compiled by Derek Humphry
  5. ^
  6. ^ BGE 133 I 58, 2A.48/2006
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Swiss voters back assisted suicide" BBC News: 15.05.2011:
  11. ^ Appel JM (2007). "A suicide right for the mentally ill? A Swiss case opens a new debate". Hastings Cent Rep. 37 (3): 21–3. doi:10.1353/hcr.2007.0035. PMID 17649899.

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