Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Swiss to tackle 'suicide tourism'

The Swiss are looking at two draft proposals on assisted suicide

The Swiss government has laid out the details of proposals to ban or severely restrict assisted suicide as part of plans to tackle "suicide tourism".

More than 100 Britons with terminal or incurable illnesses have used the Swiss centre Dignitas to kill themselves.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has called for organisations like it to face stricter controls.

The proposals will now be subject to consultation, with a draft law due to be sent to parliament in March.

Ms Widmer-Schlumpf said groups like Dignitas would face prosecution if the proposals are passed into law and they do not comply.


As part of the proposals, patients would have to provide two separate medical opinions proving that they have a terminal illness and are expected only to have months to live.

Those who are chronically or mentally ill would find it more difficult to get help in ending their lives.

Ms Widmer-Schlumpf said: "We have no interest, as a country, in being attractive for suicide tourism."

She said organisations involved in assisted suicide were "testing the boundaries of the law" and that deaths by this method should not become a "profit-driven business".

In a statement, the justice ministry said that "suicide must only be a last resort" and that it was committed to protecting human life.

It made it clear that the preference was for restrictions rather than an outright ban, saying "essentially, the Federal Council does not wish to take anything away from the current, liberal legislation".

The proposals are open for public comment until 1 March, after which the government will send a draft law to parliament.

Although there is nothing concrete in the current Swiss penal code which says that assisted suicide is legal, the practice of helping a terminally-ill patient to end his or her life is widely considered as a "humane act".

Unless the person helping is proven to be acting out of self interest, prosecution is extremely unlikely.

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