By Alex Schadenberg, executive director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
A vote in the Swiss parliament yesterday rejected a proposal to regulate the assisted suicide organizations and their suicide clinics. The two main assisted suicide organizations are Exit and Dignitas. Members of the lower house of parliament voted against changing the code, arguing self-regulation by right-to-die organizations such as Exit and Dignitas worked and the liberal rules protected individual freedoms.
A German assisted suicide group recently announced its intention of establishing a assisted suicide clinic in Zurich. The group Verein Sterbehilfe Deutschland(StHD), that is founded by Roger Kusch, opened an office in Zurich on September 14, 2012.
Last year, voters in the Zurich canton rejected similar proposals to restrict assisted suicide.
In July, I commented on an article that was published by Swissinfo.ch reporting that Zurich prosecutor Andreas Brunner told Swissinfo that legislation is required because there are no regulations for assisted suicide assistants. He stated:
“At first the argument was that it [assisted suicide] was intended for the terminally ill, then it was broadened to include the very ill facing extreme suffering,”
“Then the idea was that it should be open to the elderly who were suffering the effects of old age or a combination of illnesses, and finally it’s open to healthy people.”
Switzerland’s assisted suicide organisations are left to their own devices legally.
He then concluded his statement by saying:
“The organisations are not required to be run on a not-for-profit basis and are not subject to accounting obligations. Neither are they required to keep comprehensive records of their cases.”
“I’m not saying the organisations are not already doing these things but it should be laid down in law.”
Last June, the Canton Vaud, voted in a referendum to allow assisted suicide groups, such as Exit and Dignitas, to operate in the nursing homes. This is clearly a recipe for elder abuse.
At the same time there have been huge increases in assisted suicide deaths in Switzerland while the two main assisted suicide groups in Switzerland, Dignitas and Exit were responsible for 560 assisted suicide deaths in 2011.
In 2010, the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic made news when, Soraya Wernli, a former assisted suicide assistant, made allegations that were published in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine about abuses and financial concerns related to how Ludwig Minelli, the founder and leader of Dignitas, was operating Dignitas [www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/03/death-becomes-him/307916].
Another article that was published in the Telegraph newspaper in the UK in June 2010, indicated that Minelli was “making millions”f rom the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic. The article also brought up significant concerns related to the dumping of cremation urns and the fee structure at the Dignitas clinic.
The main reason why there have been no restrictions or “push-back” in Switzerland is that the group Exit reportedly has 75,000 members who have formidable political clout and there is currently no organized opposition to assisted suicide in Zurich.
Editor’s note. This appears on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog.