Assisted suicides on the rise in Switzerland

Year on year figures show a slight increase in euthanasia procedures in 2019, with over 1,450 people choosing to end their lives over the calendar year.

Assisted suicides on the rise in Switzerland
Photo by Daan Stevens from Pexels

Exit Switzerland this week released its figures for 2019, with a total of 1,214 people took their own life with the help of the organisation, eight more than in 2018. 

When accompanied by the 256 individuals who went through the euthanasia process with the other major Swiss assisted suicide organisation, Dignitas, a total of 1,470 people were put to death by the two organisations in 2019. 

All together, 1,428 people underwent the procedure in 2018 – an increase of three percent. 

Exit Switzerland

There were 862 deaths in German-speaking Switzerland – representing a decrease of five percent – while 352 people died in French-speaking Switzerland (a 17 percent increase). 

READ: What you need to know about assisted suicide in Switzerland 

Assisted suicide in the country is carried out by Exit Switzerland. Anyone who wants to use their services must be a member for a minimum of three years. 

READ: Assisted suicide: Wait list for new members of Switzerland's Exit

Unlike Exit Switzerland, who only provide services to Swiss citizens and long-term residents, Dignitas also carry out assisted suicide procedures on foreigners. 

Switzerland has been criticised for allowing foreigners to access euthanasia, saying that it leads to the phenomenon of ‘suicide tourism’. 

Support for the procedure appears to be growing however, with the peak German court on Wednesday saying that a ban on the procedure was unconstitutional. 

READ: German court scraps ban on assisted suicide


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad