The Swiss assisted suicide organization EXIT said Wednesday it helped a total of 1,207 people end their lives in 2018, a jump compared with the 1,031 cases in 2017.
Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death. Assisted suicide has been legal in the Alpine nation since the 1940s.
The average age of people using assisted suicide in 2018 was 78, with 57 percent of them women. Terminal cancer tops the reasons for people who sought the assisted suicide with 344 cases, followed by age-related health problems and chronic pain disorders.
The number of new members of the group rose by 2,681 to 28,762 at the end of last year. According to the Swiss News agency Keystone SDA report, Switzerland has two main groups that cater to people who seek an assisted suicide: EXIT and Dignitas.
Dignitas assists people from abroad, while EXIT, Switzerland’s most prominent organization, only supports a Swiss citizen or permanent resident in taking their own life. Members must fulfill specific criteria to use the services when they decide to end their life.
The two groups will only provide their services to people with a terminal illness, those living with extreme pain or “unbearable” symptoms, or with an unendurable disability, said Keystone SDA. A person who wishes to die must know what they are doing, not be acting on impulse, have a persistent wish to die, not be under the influence of any third party, and commit suicide by their hand.
Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor. Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or by using intravenous drips or stomach tubes, must be carried out by the person wanting to die.
In 2006 the Swiss Federal Court ruled that all people of sound judgment, irrespective of whether they have a mental illness, have the right to decide the manner of their death. The government examined various options to regulate assisted suicide practices, and in June 2011 decided not to seek changes in the law but to boost suicide prevention and palliative care.