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Swiss EXIT official found guilty of helping a woman who wanted to die

A court in Geneva has given a suspended sentence to the regional vice-president of EXIT, Pierre Beck, for helping an 86-year-old woman to die when she was not sick.
Beck, a medical doctor who is vice-president of EXIT in francophone Switzerland, provided a lethal dose of pentobarbital in April 2017 for the elderly woman. She wanted to die with her husband, who was very ill.

Beck was found guilty of breaking the federal law on therapeutic substances and given a suspended 120-day jail sentence. The court thereby confirmed a criminal order issued by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland. The defence had argued for acquittal, saying he had acted on ‘a well thought through decision’. Beck admitted he had ‘gone a little beyond EXIT’s assisted suicide criteria’, but that he did not regret his action. “I am convinced that this lady was suffering intensely”, he said.

However, the judges deemed that assisting suicide for existential reasons is not permitted by Swiss law. They considered that he had agreed to the woman’s request through altruism, but also personal conviction, and that he should have sought the advice of other doctors.

“I am being reproached for having acted alone, and if it were to happen again I would do the same, but probably ask for advice”, Beck told Swiss television RTS. “I admit I went over the limits, but I was in an unusual situation and wanted absolutely to avoid this woman killing herself violently, which she seemed certain to do.”