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Assisted suicide for the old but healthy

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The recent decision by Swiss assisted suicide provider Exit to officially sanction assisted suicide for reasons of old age has sparked significant debate and controversy. This groundbreaking move, the first of its kind in Switzerland, was ratified at Exit’s annual general meeting over the weekend, signaling a significant shift in the organization’s policies and practices. Bernhard Sutter, Exit’s vice-president, cited member feedback as the driving force behind this decision, stating that the topic had reached a critical juncture and warranted a definitive resolution.

While the decision has been met with both support and opposition, the specifics of the extended services have yet to be fully outlined. Exit representatives announced during a press conference on Saturday that a special support group would be established to deliberate and formulate the implications of the new statutes. This indicates a deliberate and cautious approach to implementing the changes, recognizing the complexity and sensitivity of the issue at hand.

It’s important to note that in Switzerland, assisted suicide is regulated by healthcare providers rather than the government. Organizations like Exit and Dignitas have autonomy in determining the eligibility criteria for individuals seeking assisted suicide. This decentralized approach has allowed for a range of perspectives and practices within the realm of end-of-life care.

However, the Swiss Medical Association has expressed serious reservations about Exit’s decision to extend assisted suicide to elderly individuals. Dr. Jürg Schlup, the association’s president, voiced concerns about the potential for elderly, healthy individuals to feel pressured into taking their own lives. This raises ethical questions about autonomy, informed consent, and the societal implications of normalizing assisted suicide for reasons related to old age.

In response to these concerns, Bernhard Sutter emphasized that the new statute aims to address the practical challenges faced by elderly individuals seeking assisted suicide. He highlighted the burdensome nature of lengthy pathology examinations typically required in such cases and argued that elderly individuals should not be subjected to unnecessary medical procedures.

While Exit’s decision may offer a sense of relief for some individuals who wish to avoid prolonged suffering, it also raises broader questions about the ethics and implications of assisted suicide in the context of aging populations. Critics argue that legalizing assisted suicide for reasons of old age could inadvertently create a societal norm that devalues the lives of elderly individuals and undermines efforts to provide comprehensive end-of-life care and support.

As this debate unfolds, it is essential to consider the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, including healthcare professionals, policymakers, ethicists, and, most importantly, the individuals and families directly affected by these decisions. Ultimately, the issue of assisted suicide requires careful consideration of ethical principles, respect for human dignity, and the promotion of compassionate end-of-life care for all individuals, regardless of age or health status.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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