Swiss organisation reports over 1,200 assisted suicides last year

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s. Keystone / Peter Komka
This content was published on February 24, 2020 - 13:27

The Swiss assisted suicide organisation EXIT helped a total of 1,214 people end their lives in 2019. 

The number of people who used EXIT’s services increased marginally (eight more) than in 2018. EXIT Deutsche SchweizExternal link, which covers German-speaking Switzerland and the Italian speaking canton of Ticino, reported on Monday that 862 people had used its services last year to terminate their lives – 43 less than in 2018. Its French equivalent EXIT Suisse RomandeExternal link saw a significant increase in assisted suicide cases: 352 cases or 51 more than in 2018. 

More than a third of those who sought help from the German-speaking branch were suffering from terminal cancer (36%), followed by those suffering from age-related health problems (26%). Of the assisted suicides, 762 (85%) took place in their homes. At the end of 2019, EXIT Deutsche Schweiz had 128,212 members while Exit Suisse Romande had 29,875 members who had signed up to benefit from assistance when the time came.  

Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death. Assisted suicide has been legal in the country since the 1940s. 

Criteria and assistance 

Switzerland has two main groups that cater to people who seek an assisted suicide: EXIT and Dignitas. While Dignitas will also assist people from abroad, EXIT, Switzerland's biggest organisation, will only support a citizen or permanent resident of Switzerland in taking their own life.  

Members must fulfil certain criteria to use the organisations’ services when they decide the time is right to end their life. EXIT and Dignitas will only provide their services to people with a terminal illness, those living with extreme pain or “unbearable” symptoms, or with an unendurable disability. 

The person who wishes to die must also know what they are doing, not be acting on impulse, have a persistent wish to die, not be under the influence of any third party, and commit suicide by their own hand. 

Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor. Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or through the use of intravenous drips or stomach tubes, must be carried out by the person wanting to die. 

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