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Majority of over 50s consider assisted suicide

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Majority of over 50s consider assisted suicide
File photo: AFP
11:03 CEST+02:00
Two thirds of the over 50s in German-speaking Switzerland have considered resorting to euthanasia to end their lives when the time comes, according to a survey.

The study, released by Zurich-based assisted dying organization Exit Switzerland on Tuesday, found that 63 percent of the over 50s have already thought about using such a service to commit suicide in the future, news agencies reported.

Nearly two-thirds want to be told of their rights regarding assisted dying and the majority would want their family doctor to be with them when they end their lives.

Though the survey of 1,036 people was carried out in German-speaking parts of the country, a similar study commissioned by the French-speaking branch of Exit some years ago showed comparable results, its president told news agencies.

Speaking at a Zurich press conference to release the figures, Exit's vice-president Marion Schafroth said patients clearly expect their doctors to discuss the subject with them “without taboo”.

Schafroth called on medical associations to consider it a “voluntary medical activity” to assist patients to commit suicide or prescribe euthanasia drugs.

The organization's president Saskia Frei said the procedure for assisted suicide should be simplified, so that police should not be required to open an investigation. Currently a legal assisted suicide is considered an “extraordinary death” and the police carry out an inspection to see if the law has been observed.

Doctors should have the right to prescribe a mortal dose of a drug in order to assist suicide, she added.

Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where assisted suicide is legal, as long as the person assisting receives no financial benefit from it – hence, ‘end-of-life' workers at Exit are unpaid volunteers.

The number of cases of assisted suicide is on the rise.

Last year Exit Switzerland helped 782 people in Swiss German parts of the country to end their lives – a rise of 30 percent on 2014 – and 213 people in the French-speaking region. The average age was 78.

Founded in 1982, Exit is the world's oldest and largest organization for living wills and doctor-assisted suicide.

It only offers the service to members – it has more than 10,000 – who must be Swiss or have permanent residency in Switzerland.

A second Swiss organization, Dignitas, also provides the service to non-Swiss who live outside the country.

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