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EXIT Deutsche Schweiz update

EXIT now has some 50,000 ­members. Advice on Living Wills and keeping records of the documents of EXIT members is a large part of the organization’s work. In 2004 EXIT accompanied 153 persons at assisted suicides. The average age was 73 years with a range from 36 to 95. Pre-conditions for assisted suicides are: membership in EXIT Deutsche Schweiz; decision-­making capacity; a continuing wish to die; and a hopeless prognosis.

EXIT relaxed its moratorium on the mentally ill. Because capacity for decision making is not necessarily clear in the case of the mentally ill, in 1999 EXIT declared a moratorium on helping this group. Over the past few years this exclusion has come in for increasing criticism. EXIT therefore commissioned a ­scientific opinion from an expert panel. They concluded that in most cases of a suicide wish on the part of the mentally ill, that wish reflects their psychological sickness and thus precludes an assisted suicide; but that there are also cases where the wish of a mentally ill person to leave this life must be seen as the desire of a person capable of that decision and should therefore be respected.

EXIT decided in November 2004 to relax the moratorium; requests from the mentally ill will not be refused out of hand. If the conditions for an assisted suicide are met and the person’s decision-making capacity adequately established, any future request, with a psychiatric opinion, will be carefully examined. If there is any doubt as to the person’s decision-making capacity in this context, assistance will be denied.