Switzerland Prosecutor Wants to Slow Down Suicide Tourism, Effort Likely Futile

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Switzerland Prosecutor Wants to Slow Down Suicide Tourism, Effort Likely Futile

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 20
, 2009

Zurich, Switzerland (LifeNews.com) — Local prosecutors in Zurich wants to slow down the number of people who head to Switzerland to kill themselves at the controversial Dignitas "clinics." However, one bioethicist says the only way to stop the pro-euthanasia group from preying on the elderly and disabled is to ban suicide tourism altogether.

With more than 100 Britons heading to Zurich to take their lives, local residents are starting a backlash against the practice. They say Dignitas founder Ludwig Minelli has embarrassed the nation and turned it into the world’s suicide capital.

Leading the way are state prosecutors who are putting new rules in place making it harder for residents of foreign countries to kill themselves in Swiss facilities.

Under the new guidelines that prosecutors have worked out with the local pro-euthanasia group Exit, people who want to kill themselves would be required to undergo several months of counseling beforehand.

Also, physicians who prescribe the deadly cocktail of drugs used in the suicides would be required to meet with the person twice before doing so.

The idea is to require more time before the suicide for people to change their mind or for the financial disincentive to prove too great to overcome.

Zurich Justice Minister Markus Notter talked about the new guidelines, which will become law this Fall.

"Suicide trips to Switzerland are not going to be banned but there are going to be stricter controls; so called ‘quick suicides’ for foreign patients are set to be outlawed," he said, according to the London Telegraph. "It is essential that people decide by their own free will. They also need to be informed about alternatives such as palliative care."

Dignitas will either have to abide by the new rules or open up shop outside the legal jurisdiction of the city of Zurich.

Yet, American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, an author and attorney, worries the new rules won’t do much to solve the suicide tourism problem.

"Switzerland is Jack Kevorkian as a country, a fact that for some, is becoming an embarrassment," he says.

"To try and put a modicum of control on the situation–in which non terminally ill Britons as well as people from other countries have flown to Switzerland so they can be brought home in the baggage hold–the Zurich prosecutor has decided to impose a few limits," he added.

"This only applies in the Zurich area, and besides, is so much hoop jumping," Smith said.

"The only way to stop suicide tourism is to make assisted suicide illegal," Smith continues. "Until people ‘get’ that one can’t be for and against suicide at the same time, these restrictions are mere leaky plugs in the dikes that, if they ever apply nationwide, will probably be violated in a very public way."

Meanwhile, the Swiss national government could consider bills that deal with the issue of suicide tourism.

Swiss national Justice Minister Eveline Wildmer Schlumpf said legislators may consider bills that would prohibit suicide and another that would put more rules and regulations in place.

Home Affairs minister Pascal Couchepin is calling for legislation prohibiting Dignitas from operating in Switzerland.

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