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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 01:46 GMT
Swiss hospital to allow suicide
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Switzerland

A gloved hand holding a syringe
Assisted suicide is not illegal in Switzerland
A hospital in Switzerland says it will allow assisted suicide on its premises for terminally ill patients.

A spokesman for the university hospital in Lausanne said the decision was taken after a long reflection.

He added that the conditions for permitting an assisted suicide remained very strict.

The practice is legal in Switzerland, but only for patients who are mentally competent and suffering from an incurable disease.

From the start of next year terminally ill patients in Lausanne's main hospital will be allowed to take their own lives on hospital premises, as long as they are of sound mind, are already too ill to return home, and have expressed a persistent wish to die.

Until now, hospitals across Switzerland had refused to allow assisted suicide on site and had denied access to the Swiss voluntary euthanasia society, Exit.

This meant that patients wishing to die by assisted suicide had to leave hospital to do so.

The new ruling will give patients access to an external doctor or to a member of Exit.

It is inhumane and immoral to force someone to suffer needlessly
Dan Redding, Denver, United States

Hospital staff can choose whether or not they wish to attend the death.

Senior doctors at Lausanne's hospital say the decision was taken after almost three years of consideration and reflects the position of the Swiss Medical Association and the National Committee on Ethics.

Both bodies say that in order to respect the wishes and independence of patients assisted suicide should be permitted in exceptional cases, but that it should never become a routine procedure.

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