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Protest change in laws

Dr Jerome Sobel, president of EXIT A.D.M.D. Geneve Suisse Romande, joined with representatives of other organizations to write to members of the Swiss Parliament urging them to reject “the Vallender initiative” which, prompted by the perception of “death tourism”, seeks to change the law in order to make assisted suicide more difficult. They pointed out that the existence of the proposal had already had an adverse effect on the work of EXIT ADMD Suisse Romande and EXIT Deutsche Schweiz.  Parliament has accepted an initiative which will make living wills legally binding, provided only that they comply with the law and represent the patient’s actual or presumed wishes at the time of death.  Helping someone to commit suicide is not a punishable offence when it is done for unselfish reasons. This applies to everyone. Where a doctor is involved, s/he should check that the following minimum requirements have been met:

  • the patient’s disease justifies the assumption that s/he is approaching the end of life;
  • alternative possibilities for providing assistance have been discussed and, if appropriate, implemented;
  • the patient is capable of making the decision and has persisted in this wish with no external pressure.
  • These points must be verified by a third party, not necessarily a doctor.

Even if made seriously and insistently by a patient a request to give death to a patient (also called “active voluntary euthanasia”) must be refused by a doctor. This remains a criminal offence.

In the view of EXIT ADMD Suisse Romande this report is encouraging in making a small step towards admitting the possibility of a doctor helping a suicide but ­generally remains too restrictive in its approach.