More people killed themselves via assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2011, according to new figures from the organization that runs the clinics that have come under so much controversy in Europe.
Exit, which promotes assisted suicide for residents of Switzerland, and Dignitas, which promotes so-called suicide tourism, say the number are up. Exit indicates it killed 416 people last year in assisted suicides, with 305 of the deaths occurring the German-speaking part of the European nation — an increase over the 257 in 2010 — while 11 people were killed in the French speaking portion of the country, up from 91 in 2010.
The group also informed Swiss Info that it saw an increase in membership that now numbers 75,000 and he said the average age of someone dying was 74 and they died in their homes. Seven people were of average age of 88 and they died in nursing homes.
Meanwhile, Dignitas, say it was responsible for the deaths of 144 people in 2011, which is a 35 percent increase from the prior year. The organization said it has helped 164 British residents kill themselves over 13 years and added that it has 770 British members.
Jérôme Sobel, president of Exit for the French part of Switzerland, told Swiss Info that an increase in membership prompted the high number of deaths.
“We have a lot more members, and that signifies as well that people are informed, they know who to speak to when they want an assisted suicide because it corresponds to their path in life,” he said, saying most people suffered from cancer but none had any mental illness.
“There are people who call us to get reassurance and who will fix a date [to end their lives] if their situation further deteriorates,” he said. “So there are people for whom calling us acts as a reassurance, and there are people whom we have been to see but who then in fact died a natural death.”
A former worker for a Dignitas suicide clinic, Soraya Wernli, spent two and a half years working at a suicide clinic. She told the London Daily Mail newspaper she began to see the suicide clinic not as the compassionate place for ending lives but as a money-making killing machine taking advantage of the disabled and terminally ill.
In recent years, Dignitas came under investigation for allegedly killing a man with depression. Under the euthanasia law in Switzerland, someone can only be killed in an assisted suicide if they suffer from a terminal illness. Swiss Judge Philippe Barboni has ordered an investigation of the death of Andrei Haber, a Romanian who lived in Fribourg.