By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The Swiss Medical Association has published new guidelines concerning assisted suicide for healthy people. According to the Swiss Academy for Arts and Sciences the new guidelines state
assisted suicide for healthy persons is not medically and ethically justifiable according to the guidelines. Assisted suicide is justifiable in the case of a patient with capacity if he or she is suffering unbearably from the symptoms of an illness and/or functional impairments, the severity of the suffering is substantiated by an appropriate diagnosis and prognosis, and other options have been unsuccessful or are rejected by the patient as unreasonable.
In order to ensure that the desire for suicide is well-considered and enduring, the guidelines now specify that the physician must – other than in justified exceptional cases – conduct at least two detailed discussions with the patient, separated by an interval of at least two weeks.
The patient’s desire not to continue living in this situation of intolerable suffering must be comprehensible to the physician on the basis of the previous history and repeated discussions. However, an objective determination of suffering is neither possible nor required by the guidelines. The guidelines also emphasize, however, that patients cannot claim to be entitled to assisted suicide, and that physicians are free to decide whether or not to consider this option.
The Swiss Medical Association appears to be wanting to curtail assisted suicide for people who are not sick or dying and yet the guidelines remain open to interpretation.
Since the decision is based on “intolerable suffering,” which they admit is not objective, therefore assisted suicide for healthy people will not be eliminated with these guidelines. The requirement that there be at least two discussions no less than two weeks apart will at least slow down the assisted suicide approval process.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.