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Swiss hospital responds to right-to-die patients

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Photo: Valais Hospital
13:10 CET+01:00
A hospital in the canton of Valais could allow assisted suicide within its walls “in exceptional circumstances”, it has announced.

Assisted dying is legal in Switzerland, though usually takes place in dedicated facilities such as Dignitas.

But the Sion branch of Valais Hospital has issued a directive to its medical staff allowing them to “give an appropriate response to the patient on this delicate matter”, its director Eric Bonvin said in a statement.

The move means a patient wishing to die can request help from Exit or another assisted dying organization within hospital walls “in exceptional situations,” meaning the person is no longer in a physical state to be moved from hospital and there is no other way of respecting “patient autonomy”.

Such cases will be submitted to a newly established ethics committee which will assess the circumstances and support the patient in their decision.

He stressed that no medical staff would take part in the assisted suicide.

“The principal duty of the hospital remains to care for people. Assisted suicide is not considered an act of care and as such is not recognized as the work of public hospital,” he added.

Bonvin told news agency ATS that only one or two people a year requested help to die at the hospital.

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However the number of assisted deaths in Switzerland as a whole has leapt recently, according to figures released earlier this week.

Over 780 people chose to end their lives with the help of Exit in 2015, nearly 200 more than the previous year, it said.

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