Swiss canton forces nursing homes to host assisted suicides

touring Neuchâtel     

The legislature of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel has voted overwhelmingly to force government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services.

(Neuchâtel is in the west of Switzerland, bordering on France, and is predominantly French-speaking.)

There are no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes. The only critierion, according to, is the personal choice of the patients. Personal autonomy must take precedence over the rules of the nursing homes. About 60 institutions will be affected by the decision.

The new regulations specify that nursing home personnel will not be allowed to interfere if a patient chooses to die. In fact, they are required to set aside a room where the staff of the assisted suicide organisation Exit will help the person to die. 

The law establishes some conditions for such procedures. The disease or condition must be serious and incurable and other end-of-life options must be discussed. If the nursing home refuses to cooperate, the patient can complain to the authorities. Only homes which do not accept government funding will be allowed to close their doors to Exit.

Exit (whose full name is Exit ADMD Suisse Romande) caters for French-speaking Swiss. Another group, called simply Exit, caters for German-speakers. Last year the French Exit began to offer its services to elderly people who did not have a terminal illness but wished to die. According to one report, it helped 155 people to die last year, and its German counterpart 459. Apparently nursing homes in the German cantons are far more amenable to visits by Exit. 

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