In 2015, 965 Swiss residents used assisted suicide services in Switzerland, according to the latest figures from the Swiss statistics office.
That’s up from 742 the year before and a remarkable rise on the year 2000 when only 86 people resorted to assisted suicide, said the Tages Anzeiger.
Women are more likely than men to seek assistance to die (539 against 426 in 2015). In contrast, far fewer women commit unassisted suicide (279 against 792 men in 2015).
The figures do not include people who come from abroad to commit suicide in Switzerland.
Speaking to the Tages Anzeiger, medical professor Felix Gutzwiller said the reason for the rise in assisted suicide was related to Switzerland’s aging population and elderly people’s increasing desire to take control over the end of their lives.
Assisted suicide organizations are now more accepted by the medical profession than they used to be, he said.
What’s more, today’s elderly have grown up knowing about assisted suicide organization Exit, which was founded in 1982, and the organization’s membership has doubled over the past ten years.
Understanding of euthanasia has increased in recent years, added Exit director Bernard Sutter.
Twenty years ago finding a doctor to issue a prescription for the deadly drug used by Exit was much more difficult than it is today, he said.
Exit offers its services only to Swiss residents who must be members of the organization. Currently, they must have an incurable illness, though the group is considering extending its service to elderly people in good health.
A second Swiss organization, Dignitas, also provides assisted suicide services to non-Swiss who live outside the country.
All ‘end-of-life’ workers are unpaid volunteers, since assisted suicide is only legal in Switzerland if the assistant does not benefit financially from the person’s death.
The figures on assisted suicide in 2015 came out of an analysis of all causes of death in that year by the Swiss statistics office.
The flu epidemic at the start of the year and the July heatwave contributed to a six per cent rise in the number of deaths compared to the previous year.
The rise meant life expectancy in Switzerland actually dipped slightly in 2015, something that hadn’t happened since 1990, however that rose again in 2016 when the number of deaths fell.
The principal causes of death in 2015 remained accident and suicide for young people under the age of 40, and cancer and cardiovascular problems for older people.