Swiss doctor acquitted after helping healthy woman die with her husband

assisted suicide, euthanasia, suicide, Portugal

A Swiss doctor who helped a couple commit suicide together has been acquitted of all charges, six years after killing the husband and wife.

Pierre Beck, who works for Exit International, began working with the couple in 2015. While the husband was seriously ill, his wife — though elderly — was healthy. However, she insisted that she could not live without her husband, so in 2017, Beck prescribed the woman a fatal dose of pentobarbital and committed assisted suicide for both of them.

In 2020, he was convicted on charges of committing assisted suicide on a healthy person, though his sentence was relatively light: just 120 days in prison and a fine. At the time, Beck expressed little-to-no remorse.

“I am being reproached for having acted alone, and if it were to happen again I would do the same, but probably ask for advice,” he told Swiss television RTS. “I admit I went over the limits, but I was in an unusual situation and wanted absolutely to avoid this woman killing herself violently, which she seemed certain to do.”

He announced his intention to fight the conviction and after a long court battle, emerged victorious.

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In December 2021, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland overruled the verdict and said Beck had to be retried under narcotics laws. Then, in a February 6th ruling, the Geneva Criminal Appeal and Review Chamber found him not guilty.

“[T]he sole fact of a physician prescribing pentobarbital to a person in good health, capable of discernment and wishing to die, does not constitute behaviour punishable by the law on narcotics,” the ruling said, while adding that the decision doesn’t mean a doctor can prescribe barbiturates without incurring any liability.

Prosecutors now have 30 days to file an appeal.

The drugs used in assisted suicide and euthanasia are frequently the same ones used to carry out the death penalty — like pentobarbital. And far from a peaceful, humane death, they have often left individuals paralyzed as they slowly die. Because no outward expression of pain can be made, the assumption is that the death is humane and painless. Experts have described it as people drowning in their own fluids, while other experiments with assisted suicide and euthanasia were said to be “burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain.”

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