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Euro court seeks Swiss clarity on euthanasia

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Euro court seeks Swiss clarity on euthanasia
Christian de Duve, Belgian Nobel Prize winning scientist, drew attention to the euthanasia issue earlier this month when he died through assisted suicide at the age of 95. Photo: AFP
20:12 CEST+02:00
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday asked Switzerland to clarify its guidelines on euthanasia after an octogenarian who wanted to end her life failed to convince doctors to assist her in her suicide because she was not ill enough.

Alda Gross, 82, had requested assisted suicide because of old age and an increasingly isolated and monotonous life. She argued she was frail and suffering a physical and mental decline, but did not suffer a serious illness.
   
Although assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland under certain 
circumstances — provided it is not carried out by selfish motives and is often used to help terminally ill patients end their lives — Gross failed to convince doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication out of fear they would face criminal charges.
   
The Strasbourg court concluded that "the absence of clear and comprehensive 
legal guidelines violated the applicant's right to respect for her private life".
   
The court said the lack of clarity must have left Gross "in a state of 
anguish and uncertainty regarding the extent of her right to end her life which would not have occurred if there had been clear, state-approved guidelines defining the circumstances under which medical practitioners are authorized to issue the requested prescription".
   
It also said the lack of clarity "is likely to have a chilling effect on 
doctors who would otherwise be inclined to provide someone such as the applicant with the requested medical prescription".
   
The court did not rule on whether assisted suicide should be authorized in 
the Gross case, however.
   
The parties have three months to appeal the ruling.

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