Switzerland announced plans this week to crack down on “suicide tourism," signalling that it might close the Dignitas clinic that has helped hundreds of terminally ill people to take their lives.
The plans — in the form of two draft bills that will be offered for public debate — are likely to set off a rush of patients from Britain and elsewhere in Europe since Switzerland has become the main destination for those seeking assisted suicide.
Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said that two options would be presented to parliament. Either clinics such as Dignitas and Exit, which deals chiefly with Swiss patients, will have to accept much stricter regulation or they will be closed down.
The tightening of the rules would require patients to present two medical opinions declaring their disease incurable, that death is expected within months and that they have made their decision of sound mind and fully aware of their options.
These guidelines, said the minister, appeal to common sense. And even in the most controversial clinic, Dignitas, these rules are already broadly adhered to. But critics have accused Dignitas of widening its criteria. Some patients are not terminally ill and at least a few would-be suicides are suffering from clinical depression.
The plan is to slow down the process and make it a more considered decision.
“It won’t be possible in future for someone to cross the border and commit suicide a few days later with the help of an organization,” Widmer-Schlumpf said.