Zurich hosts dignity in death debate

Groups supporting the right to hasten dying will meet in Zurich this week for a global conference on assisted suicide, reigniting the debate on dignified death.

Representatives from about 45 countries are expected at the five-day congress of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, held every two years.

The venue of the 2012 meeting honours the 30th anniversary of Zurich-based Exit, a group carrying out assisted suicides in Switzerland where the practice is legal under certain conditions.

"It's no longer necessary to make the argument in Switzerland," said Exit vice president Bernhard Sutter.

"Lots of people are nevertheless interested in the subject and are asking, for example, what will happen the day they suffer from Alzheimer's," he said.

The will hear from acclaimed British fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, himself diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago and patron of pro-choice group Dignity in Dying.

Pratchett will address the conference during its open day on Friday along with Ludwig Minelli, founder of Swiss group Dignitas, and German writer Ueli Oswald whose father died with Exit.

The meeting is otherwise reserved for members of the Federation.

"The situation concerning assisted suicide varies widely from country to country," said Sutter.

"The aim of the conference is essentially an exchange between the participants on political work, lobbying and initiatives" to make the argument for assisted suicide, he said.

The congress, last held in Melbourne in 2010, will also see the detractors of assisted dying have their say.

Human Life International (HLI) Switzerland, which campaigns on abortion, contraception, and , plans to hold a demonstration on the fringes of the forum on Friday.

"Our aim is not to disrupt the conference," said secretary Christoph Keel.

"Our aim is to put other arguments to the visitors of the congress. We are going to organise discussions and we will be there at the entrance (of the conference) to distribute leaflets," he said.

Sutter from Exit says he is "completely accepting" of different views.

"It's just a shame that the opposite camp is not tolerant too," he said.

Three hundred Swiss residents died in assisted suicides in 2009, nine out of 10 of them aged over 55, according to official statistics published for the first time in March this year.

The Swiss Federal Statistics Office data does not take into account foreigners who come to Switzerland for assisted suicide.

Between 1998 and 2011, Dignitas helped 1,169 non-nationals die, mostly Germans (664), followed by patients from Britain (182) and France (117).

Exit meanwhile stipulates that clients must be resident in Switzerland.

Swiss law says a person may be given "passive" or "indirect active" assistance to suicide, such as being supplied with a lethal dose of a drug, provided it is not done for selfish motives or for gain.

The government last year rejected proposals to tighten the rules.

Politicians had considered imposing certain "duties of care" to employees of organisations offering assisted suicide and an outright ban on the groups altogether.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Author Terry Pratchett defends right-to-die film

Jun 14, 2011

(AP) -- Writer Terry Pratchett said Tuesday that watching a man being helped to die had reaffirmed his support for assisted suicide, while anti-euthanasia groups criticized the televised death as propaganda.

UK publishes new rules for assisted suicide

Feb 25, 2010

(AP) -- Britain's top prosecutor published new guidelines Thursday spelling out what types of assisted suicide cases were more likely to face prosecution, keeping the practice illegal but finding some leeway for suspects ...

Recommended for you

What are the chances that your dad isn't your dad?

Apr 16, 2014

How confident are you that the man you call dad is really your biological father? If you believe some of the most commonly-quoted figures, you could be forgiven for not being very confident at all. But how ...

New technology that is revealing the science of chewing

Apr 15, 2014

CSIRO's 3D mastication modelling, demonstrated for the first time in Melbourne today, is starting to provide researchers with new understanding of how to reduce salt, sugar and fat in food products, as well ...

After skin cancer, removable model replaces real ear

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—During his 10-year struggle with basal cell carcinoma, Henry Fiorentini emerged minus his right ear, and minus the hearing that goes with it. The good news: Today, the 56-year-old IT programmer ...

Italy scraps ban on donor-assisted reproduction

Apr 09, 2014

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a Catholic Church-backed ban against assisted reproduction with sperm or egg donors that has forced thousands of sterile couples to seek help abroad.

User comments