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30 percent leap in assisted deaths in Switzerland

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File photo of a hospital. Photo:Presidencia de la República/Flickr
09:56 CET+01:00
782 people chose to end their lives with the help of assisted dying group Exit in 2015 - 199 more than in the previous year.

The group said on Tuesday that the rise in demand shows that "there is a strong need for assisted dying among the Swiss population".

As for the reasons behind the steady increase, Bernhard Sutter from the organization told The Local: "Of course, Switzerland is a country of immigration and has an increasing number of inhabitants. The population is aging, and life expectancy is rising dramatically. So that means that the probability of someone getting into a serious health problem and needing our help goes up."

He added that baby boomers who are currently entering old age "no longer want to ask their doctors how long they have to suffer or how they are allowed to die; they prefer to decide for themselves."

However, while some Swiss media described the rise as "explosive" and "dramatic", Sutter explained that it was "part of a trend which has been going on for several years".

Exit's membership is also increasing annually, having doubled in just a few years, and has now reached 95,000. Members pay an annual fee which means they have access to Exit's services, including leaving wills, legal counsel, and - if need be - end-of-life care.

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In 2015, around 3,500 of its members requested help from the group with assisted dying. All requests submitted are subject to an in-depth review, which is why this number is much higher than the actual assisted deaths.

Most of the assisted deaths took place in the canton of Zurich (267), followed by Bern (123), Aargau (60) and St Gallen (55). The average age of those seeking help from the group was 77.4 years, and the most common illness patients were suffering from was terminal cancer, as has been the case in previous years, followed by multiple age-related illnesses and chronic pain.

The Zurich-based organization was founded in 1982. Switzerland is one of the few countries where assisted dying is legal, however it remains a controversial topic. Sutter pointed out that it remains a relatively rare choice even in Switzerland - and Exit only allows members who are Swiss residents.

 
 

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