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HEALTH

Zurich voters reject suicide clinic curbs

 

Voters in the Swiss region of Zurich, which has become known as a hub for "death tourism", voted on Sunday against plans to restrict assisted suicide to local residents.

 

The motion brought by the conservative Federal Democratic Union party sought to impose a one-year residence requirement in the Zurich canton for those who resort to legally sanctioned assisted suicide.

A locally based association, Dignitas, has gained notoriety over the past decade by offering more than 1,000 foreigners, mainly terminally ill people, the opportunity to take advantage of relatively permissive Swiss laws.

The motion was rejected by 218,602 votes to 60,186 or 78.4 percent. A second motion calling for a national ban on assisted suicide was also rejected by 234,956 votes against 43,165 or 84.5 percent.

“The right to die is a private matter that does not concern the state and the Church even less so,” vice president of the assisted suicide association Exit, Bernhard Sutter, told AFP. 

“It’s a clear sign from Zurich and corresponds with Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition of coming to the aid of others,” he said.  

In Switzerland a person may be given “passive” assistance to suicide, such as being supplied with a lethal dose of a drug, provided it is not done for selfish motives or for gain.

Active assistance, including helping the person to take the drug or administering it, is forbidden.

Dignitas, a Swiss organisation founded by controversial human rights activist Ludwig Minelli that assists the terminally ill, said that by the end of 2010 it had worked with 1,138 people seeking to end their lives.

The list includes 592 people from Germany, 102 from France, 118 Swiss nationals, 19 Italians, 18 US nationals and 16 people from Spain.

The group says that in the last decade it has approached more than 1,000 foreigners about benefiting from Swiss assisted suicide laws.

For members

HEALTH

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
 

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