Swiss canton to vote on assisted suicide on June 17

The Swiss canton of Vaud will hold a referendum on June 17 to decide whether nursing homes and hospitals must accept assisted suicide on their premises. (Vaud is a French-speaking canton in the west, whose capital is Lausanne.) 

Swiss law on assisted suicide is complex. Euthanasia is illegal, but assisted suicide is legal provided that assistance is not rendered for selfish ends. Nursing homes are not always in favour of allowing Swiss suicide associations to recruit in their premises. So Exit, a group which services only Swiss citizens, launched the current referendum. 

Bertrand Kiefer, chief editor of the Swiss Medical Review, urges caution. "Agreeing too easily to meet the suicide demand of these seniors plays into the hands of a society where beauty, youth and performance are established as core values," he says. "Before responding to a death wish, we must ask if the people can find meaning in their lives despite their problems.”

A draft law that a doctor at a nursing home should verify that the patient is suffering from an incurable illness or injury, that he is making a free decision, and that his desire to die is lasting. The doctor is also supposed to consult with the patient’s caregivers, other doctors and family members.

If the law passes, it will be first Swiss law to explicitly regulate the practice of assisted suicide. ~ Tribune de Geneve, May 29

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