More nursing homes allow assisted suicide

Zurich is leading the way in making assisted suicide available in retirement and nursing homes.


In a recent poll of nursing home employees in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, more than 50 percent confirmed that assisted suicide was practised at their place of work, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

“Only five years ago, only 20 percent of institutions accepted it,” Bernhard Sutter, vice president of Exit, the Swiss organization for assisted suicide, told the newspaper.

The number of instances where nursing homes are inviting Exit in to assist has been rising, with homes in Zurich leading the way, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

“It’s a development that is fanning out from Zurich in all directions,” said Sutter in Tages Anzeiger.

Marc Pfirter, head of the Regional Care Centre in Baden, was forced recently to develop a policy for the centre when two of its residents asked for assistance in death.

“It’s not up to us to determine what is right or wrong,” he told Tages Anzeiger.

Pfirter, along with the home’s governing body, have taken the position that the will of the patients must remain “sacrosanct”.

On admission, “their world shrinks to a bed and a chest of drawers,” Pfirter said.

Some are also unable to move without assistance, which means their ability to function autonomously has been further reduced. Pfirter therefore concluded that the ability to determine the end of one’s life should rest in the hands of the elderly person.

The trend has not taken off across the entire region. In Solothurn, for example, assisted suicide is not permitted. Discussions are under way to amend this situation but the debate is heated.

Hans Ruedi Moor, director of the nursing home Wenigstein im Gremium, is against introducing assisted suicide in nursing homes.

“Imagine – two women live in one of our rooms. One day suddenly one of them is gone. The other asks us: ‘What happened? She was still doing pretty well yesterday?’ And we say then, ‘Exit was here’.  This would be the trigger for great anxiety and uncertainty among the homes’ inhabitants.”

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