Suicide Tourism for Assisted Self Murder Doubles in 4 Years in Switzerland

Suicide Tourism to Switzerland Doubles in 4 Years

Suicide Tourism is booming…

suicide tourism imgThe number of people traveling to Switzerland to commit suicide has doubled since 2009, a new study shows.

These “suicide tourism tourists” are largely from Germany and the United Kingdom, although they also come from other countries including the United States and Canada, and nearly half suffer from nonfatal neurological conditions, such as paralysis, motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Saskia Gauthier, MD, from the Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Zurich, and colleagues report their findings in an article published online August 20 in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Assisted suicide is restricted in many countries, but in Switzerland it is not clearly regulated by law, leading to an influx of people (suicide tourism) coming to the country, mainly to the Canton of Zurich, for the sole purpose of killing themselves. “Swiss medico-legal experts are confronted with cases almost daily, which prompted our scientific investigation of the phenomenon,” the authors note.

The researchers searched the databases of the Institute of Legal Medicine in Zurich on assisted suicide and found that 611 non-Swiss residents had been killed by medical suicide between 2008 and 2012. All but 4 were helped by Dignitas, 1 of 6 so called “right-to-die” organizations active in Switzerland.

These ‘suicide tourism tourists’ ranged in age from 23 to 97 years (median, 69 years). More than half (58.5%) were women, who were 40% more likely to choose assisted suicide in Switzerland than men. In all but 4 cases, assisted suicides were carried out with sodium pentobarbital.

Neurological diseases were the reason for assisted suicide in nearly half of cases (47.4%), followed by cancer (37.2%), rheumatic disease (24.6%), cardiovascular disease (15.2%), mental disorder including dementia (3.4%), and HIV (1.3%).

“These results imply that that non-fatal diseases or diseases that are not yet end stage (ie, not meeting the criteria required for Swiss doctors) are more often becoming the reason for seeking [assisted suicide],” the authors note.

People seeking assisted suicide during the study period came from 31 different countries, with German and UK nationals making up nearly two thirds of the total, with 268 and 126 cases, respectively.

Other countries in the top 10 included France, with 66 cases; Italy, with 44; the United States, with 21; Austria, with 14; Canada, with 12; and Spain and Israel, with 8 each.

The increase in suicide tourism by people seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland was particularly steep in Italy, increasing from 4 cases in 2009 to 22 in 2012, and France, increasing from 7 cases in 2009 to 19 in 2012.

Overall, 2009 to 2012 saw a doubling in the numbers of people being helped to murder themselves by medical doctors in Switzerland, going from 86 in 2009 to 172 in 2012, the researchers say.

This study shows that the “phenomenon of suicide tourism has been growing over the years and is still increasing unabated,” they conclude.

What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

“I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.”

The study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

J Medical Ethics. Published online August 20, 2014. Full text

suicide-tourism-switzerland-qr code

QR Code For This Blog Post.