• Switzerland's news in English

Zurich hosts global dignity in death debate

AFP · 12 Jun 2012, 11:46

Published: 12 Jun 2012 11:46 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Groups supporting the right to hasten dying will meet in Zurich this week for a global conference on assisted suicide, reigniting the debate on dignified death.

Representatives from about 45 countries are expected at the five-day congress of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, held every two years.

The venue of the 2012 meeting honours the 30th anniversary of Zurich-based Exit, a group carrying out assisted suicides in Switzerland where the practice is legal under certain conditions.

"It's no longer necessary to make the argument in Switzerland," said Exit vice president Bernhard Sutter.

"Lots of people are nevertheless interested in the subject and are asking, for example, what will happen the day they suffer from Alzheimer's," he said.

The conference will hear from acclaimed British fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, himself diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago and patron of pro-choice group Dignity in Dying.

Pratchett will address the conference during its open day on Friday along with Ludwig Minelli, founder of Swiss assisted suicide group Dignitas, and German writer Ueli Oswald whose father died with Exit.

The meeting is otherwise reserved for members of the Federation.

"The situation concerning assisted suicide varies widely from country to country," said Sutter.

"The aim of the conference is essentially an exchange between the participants on political work, lobbying and initiatives" to make the argument for assisted suicide, he said.

The congress, last held in Melbourne in 2010, will also see the detractors of assisted dying have their say.

Human Life International (HLI) Switzerland, which campaigns on abortion, contraception, sex education and euthanasia, plans to hold a demonstration on the fringes of the forum on Friday.

"Our aim is not to disrupt the conference," said secretary Christoph Keel.

"Our aim is to put other arguments to the visitors of the congress. We are going to organise discussions and we will be there at the entrance (of the conference) to distribute leaflets," he said.

Sutter from Exit says he is "completely accepting" of different views.

"It's just a shame that the opposite camp is not tolerant too," he said.

Three hundred Swiss residents died in assisted suicides in 2009, nine out of 10 of them aged over 55, according to official statistics published for the first time in March this year.

The Swiss Federal Statistics Office data does not take into account foreigners who come to Switzerland for assisted suicide.

Story continues below…

Between 1998 and 2011, Dignitas helped 1,169 non-nationals die, mostly Germans (664), followed by patients from Britain (182) and France (117).

Exit meanwhile stipulates that clients must be resident in Switzerland.

Swiss law says 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.

The government last year rejected proposals to tighten the rules.

Politicians had considered imposing certain "duties of care" to employees of organisations offering assisted suicide and an outright ban on the groups altogether.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available