“The Federal Council decided against introducing specific provisions in criminal law on organised assisted suicide. It concluded that such an amendment to criminal law would have various drawbacks,” it said.
Amid an emotional uproar sparked by several international media reports and documentaries on foreigners who had come to Switzerland to die as well as on the practice of assisted suicide in the country, Bern in 2008 decided to reassess legislation on the issue.
The government was earlier leaning towards amending rules to impose certain “duties of care” to employees of organisations offering assisted suicide, such as requiring them to help only those who freely declare their will to die after having thoroughly considered the issue.
But on Wednesday, it rejected this option as well as another proposal for an outright ban on organisations offering assisted suicide, noting that any revisions to current law could lead to several negative effects.
“One such argument is that it could officially legitimise assisted suicide organisations, which could provide people with an incentive to take up their services,” said the government.
“Furthermore, a change in legislation would not be well accepted particularly by doctors whose professional body during the consultation process came out against making medical practice out of assisted suicide,” it added.
In Switzerland a person may be given “passive” or “indirect active” 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.
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.
On May 15 voters in the canton of Zurich, which has become known as a hub for “death tourism”, voted against plans to restrict assisted suicide to local residents.