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Report from Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics

In July this year the Swiss Commission on bioethics issued a report on assisted suicide with a number of recommendations. Principal items are set out below.

  • Decisions on assisted suicides should be based on individual cases, not general rules.
  • Current law protects those assisting a suicide and should not be undermined.
  • For patients with mental disorders, where the wish for suicide is a symptom of the disease, assisted suicide should not be carried out.
  • Assisted suicide cannot be seen as part of duties of health professionals. Physicians will need to make personal decisions in each case.
  • There are no ethical grounds for preventing non-residents from seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland – but see recommendation 4.
  • New regulations are needed as follows:
  1. before any decision taken on an assisted suicide, adequate investigation to be carried out;
  2. no one to be obliged to assist a suicide;
  3. assisted suicide not to be offered where the request is the symptom of a mental disorder;
  4. assisted suicide not to be permitted for children or adolescents [minority view]
  5. right-to-die societies should be subject to state supervision.

Source: Newsletter RtD-Europe, September 2005.