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Swiss Suicide Tourism

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 30 minutes. He had a motor neuron disease and under Swiss law had a right to kill himself. The reason this is new news is that British television just showed the suicide on one of their networks in the past week. It looked like a man falling peacefully asleep.

As the AP article notes, the only criteria for assisting a suicide are that the person “suffers from an illness that inevitably leads to death, or from an unacceptable disability, and wants to end their life and suffering voluntarily.” Some people believe that such services do a disservice, by making the option of suicide too readily available to people whose pain and suffering cannot be measured by current medical science. And yet people around the world are seeking out Swiss assisted suicide services:

But demand continues to grow, Dignitas says, and its membership has reached nearly 6,000 over the past decade. Some are merely supporters of its work, others intend to die with its help when the time comes.

The government is weighing rules that could spell the end for “suicide tourism,” which James Harris of London-based Dignity in Dying, would only mean more agonizing suicides, often botched.

Bernard Sutter, a spokesman for Exit, Switzerland’s largest assisted-suicide group, which only helps Swiss residents, says other countries should change their laws.

At the end of the day, I think such services are needed as one possible option for people who are suffering from a terminal medical illness or such pain and suffering that traditional pain killers don’t reach (or, especially in America, doctors are afraid to prescribe the amounts of painkiller needed for fear of overzealous prosecutors). If I was in such pain — day in, day out, with no sign of medical relief — I would welcome such a humane and dignified end.

In America, we too often value quantity over quality. Give me more, more, more!! But some people do value quality, and perhaps more importantly, a life that can be lived without neverending pain. If that’s not possible, assisted suicide is an option that should be more widely available (not requiring a trip to one of the two states that allow it in the U.S. — Oregon and Washington), as long as it remains carefully administered by an organization and doctors who ensure only people who suffer from a terminal medical illness (e.g., not depression) or are in severe and unending physical (not emotional) pain have access to it.

Read the full article: Death on TV reveals a Swiss haven for suicides

Swiss Suicide Tourism

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Swiss Suicide Tourism. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 16 Dec 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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