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Swiss Suicide Tourism

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

As you may have heard, an American traveled to Switzerland two years ago and enjoyed the Swiss’ openness to assisted suicide. After paying a nonprofit the 10,000 Swiss francs (about $8,300), Craig Ewert drank a glass of water laced with sodium pentobarbital and died within …

9 Comments to
Swiss Suicide Tourism

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  1. You said that only terminal illnesses and physical pain should help a person qualify for an assisted suicide and suffering from emotional pain / depression should be discounted. My question is, what if it is a long-lasting depression / unending emotional pain? Not just a figure of speech, but literally lasting years. Why should physical pain be valued so highly over emotional pain?

    It seems like we are trying to help people to see that emotional pain can be just as debilitating as physical pain, yet by saying we would deny these people the right to an assisted suicide we would be contradicting ourselves. Why would we tell someone that there is nothing we can do for their physical pain any longer so it’s okay to kill theirself, but deny it to someone why has been through therapy / medication / etc without relief. You nailed it in your post – life should be about quality rather than quantity, so is it really fair to make someone who is miserable emotionally live out a longer life than someone who is miserable physically?

  2. I think this is a very good question and one which takes us into a very gray area. Because one of depression’s symptoms is increased suicidality, we have to be careful about using a disorder like depression itself as a reason.

    As you say, though, what if a person has tried all treatments and continues to suffer from it, painfully, for years on end… For that, I have no answer.

  3. Dr. Grohol,

    Thank you for being honest with your answer.

    CC

  4. Thank you Dr Grohol very much indeed for supporting in general the work of EXIT International and Dignitas Switzerland. In the Mellbourne Age today in Australia, one story was about non English speking Australians suffering malnutrition in ‘Homes’, because nobody went to the trouble of hiring interpreters to find out their specil dietary needs. One home gave Italian elders spaghetti once a month, thinking that would satisfy them. Many NESB people cannot tolerate sausages, peas etc. What sort of life is that???

  5. I think that is a very interesting and mature view you take to assisted suicide and i would have to agree with you. It would be hard for someone with a terminal illness because they just don’t know when their time is up. They spend their lives waiting and suffering. I think it would give them some relief to know exactly when they are going to die. Although it may be frightening, i’m sure it would be a better alternative to living year after year in fear of their death.

  6. Hi, as a licensed psychologist who works with elderly and disabled people in a nursing home, I can tell you that I am amazed at how even people in chronic pain value their life. These people believe in a spiritual value to their life, even with great suffering. I feel a tremendous amount of spiritual growth from helping these people endure and grow. They believe they are preparing to go to a better place. The staff in the nursing home do all they can to alleviate their pain. People think nursing homes are bad places but they enable people to have quality of life because there are activities and socializing there set up for disabled/dying people. Having said all this, I would not deny someone the choice to end their lives in dignity. However, people contemplating suicide should consider spiritual counseling. After all, if there is a lesson to be learned through the suffering, wouldn’t it be better to get it over with now? The lesson will be learned in another life if not in this one. I wouldn’t want to come back unless I had to!

  7. i think the swiss have it right ! why should some one you love so very much suffer so much to live. the idea is total compassion for the sick.the swiss understand that to die with some kind of respect means a lot. may god bless the swiss for having the guts to do what is right. by not letting the over do it gooders say it is wrong. no one knows the feeling until you are in there shoes with pain every single minute of the day !!!
    i can only wonder what some of these detracrors would say if they were in these peoples shoes ! where is our compassion for our fellow man ?

  8. THE MORE I READ ABOUT WHY PEOPLE DO THIS. THE MORE I AGREE WHY THE SWISS LET THEIR DOCTORS DO IT !NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO UNDER GO SUCH HORRORBLE PAIN TO PLEASE THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. COMPASSION FOR EVERYONE IS THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES US LIKE OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR.IS IT KILLING ? NO ,IT IS LETTING SOMEONE SPEED UP WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN ANYWAY.WITH OUT THE HORRORABLE PAIN THEY HAD TO GO THRU.WE MOST ANSWER THE QUESTION ARE WE NAZIS, COMMUNISTS OR GOD FEARING PEOPLE THAT CARE FOR OTHERS WITH GODLY COMPASSION !

  9. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the
    most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m
    glad I found your blog. Thanks

  10. My younger sister had been ill for eight years with multiple chronic conditions. due to cancer treatment which compromised her immune system. At the same time she was struggling to care for her husband (15 years older than her) who was dying from a lung disease. Eventually her husband was admited to hospital (one treating only chest conditions). He died after three months in the hospital. During this time my sister’s illnesses started to make her life very difficult. If they had been tolerable before they now became a cause of constant pain. Eating, walking, taking care of herself became an all consuming round of pain and
    terrible physical symptons. Increases in her pain medication did not help the daily struggle for living. Added to this was the grief of living without a mate, the worry over settling her husband’s estate and winter storm damage to her home. After five months of trying to “live” my sister killed herself. My brother and I tried to help, but our love could not stop her pain. She died alone. Assisted suicide would have been a much better choice had it been available. My sister could have died with her family around her. My brother and I would not have been left in a state of overwhelming grief and helplessness. The medical profession tortured this woman with tratments that were basically useless. She was offered no hope and little kindness. Her family doctor was the only one who helped with pain medication. It was this medication that facilitated her suicide. I thank this man for providing my sister with the means to end her life of illness. I wish he could have done it legally
    and been there to help her as a physican. I am a spiritual person as was my sister and we often talked about suffering and its place in our lives. In her case it was not of any spiritual value. It was a mean hard way of living. I am glad for her that she made this choice but sad for her that it was done in secret and alone.

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