Switzerland Court Would Allow Assisted Suicide of Mentally Disabled

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Switzerland Court Would Allow Assisted Suicide of Mentally Disabled Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 5
, 2007

Lausanne, Switzerland (LifeNews.com) — A decision by the highest court in Switzerland could pave the way for expanding assisted suicide there to include physicians helping mentally ill patients kill themselves. The nation already allows the grisly practice for patients with a wide range of physical disabilities, diseases or illnesses.

The decision by the Swiss Federal Court puts mental disabilities on par with physical ones.

The ruling means a decision to end one’s own life is not limited to people with physical illness but now based on whether a person believes that their life is "not worth living anymore."

"It must be recognized that an incurable, permanent, serious mental disorder can cause similar suffering as a physical (disorder), making life appear unbearable to the patient in the long term," the court said, according to an AP report.

"If the death wish is based on an autonomous decision which takes all circumstances into account, then a mentally ill person can be prescribed sodium-pentobarbital and thereby assisted in suicide," the court added.

In a statement provided to LifeNews.com, Alex Schadenberg, of the Canadian-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, condemned the decision.

"The Swiss have now opened the door to a free-fall into the abyss of the culture of death," he said.

"The end of this free-fall is the societal pressure and culture that demands an obligation to die for the weakest members of society who are seen as lacking the quality of life or too stupid to recognize that their life is not worth living," he added.

The decision came in a case where a mentally disabled member of Dignitas, a pro-euthanasia group that runs assisted suicide houses in Switzerland, was not able to get a prescription for the lethal drugs for his suicide.

The 53 year-old man suffers from bipolar disorder wanted to be able to get the drugs without a doctor’s order, though the court said he would still have to get a prescription.

Schadenberg said he’s worried that the decision will lead to killing the mentally disabled without their consent. He said there are no safeguards or concerns for people with disabilities and other vulnerable people to make sure ending their lives is truly their wish.

He’s also worried the ruling upheld not only the right to assisted suicide in Switzerland but may compel the government to assist in the suicides.

Only a couple of other nations allow assisted suicide, with the Netherlands legalizing it in 2001 and Belgium in 2002. The state of Oregon has legalized assisted suicide as well.