The Swiss Medical Association has released new guidelines regarding assisted suicide in Switzerland. The guidelines, which are not legally binding, but act as a code for doctors to adhere to, make the requirements stricter. As a result, so-called “death with dignity” organizations are furious.
Under the new guidelines, the assisted suicide of healthy people is strictly condemned as unethical. “Assisted suicide is justifiable in the case of a patient with capacity if he or she is suffering unbearably from the symptoms of an illness and/or functional impairments, the severity of the suffering is substantiated by an appropriate diagnosis and prognosis, and other options have been unsuccessful or are rejected by the patient as unreasonable,” the text reads.
To make sure the person is not being coerced and is sincere in their wish to die, the guidelines also call for multiple visits across a longer period of time. “In order to ensure that the desire for suicide is well-considered and enduring, the guidelines now specify that the physician must – other than in justified exceptional cases – conduct at least two detailed discussions with the patient, separated by an interval of at least two weeks,” the guidelines read. “The patient’s desire not to continue living in this situation of intolerable suffering must be comprehensible to the physician on the basis of the previous history and repeated discussions.”
Additionally, the Association stresses that no one is “entitled” to assisted suicide and that doctors are “free to decide whether or not to consider this option.”
Jean-Jacques Bise, co-president of the EXIT assisted suicide group, however, said these requirements are impractical. Bise especially condemned the requirement for two visits conducted two weeks apart.
Though it’s unlikely that the case directly influenced the new guidelines, the assisted suicide deaths of two healthy sisters in Switzerland caused international outrage. Lila Ammouri, age 54, and Susan Frazier, age 49, were both health care workers who disappeared, causing many to be worried they were the victims of a violent crime. Their brother only discovered they had undergone assisted suicide when contacted by the Independent.
Despite the stricter recommendations from the Swiss Medical Association, Switzerland has some of the least restrictive assisted suicide laws in the world, even allowing prisoners to participate.
Assisted suicide preys on people who are vulnerable, and multiple studies, including some published in prestigious medical journals, have repeatedly found that people seek assisted suicide because they are depressed, hopeless, have no support, and are afraid of being a burden.
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