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Switzerland government to consider stricter rules for assisted suicide

The Swiss Federal Council and Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) [official websites] announced Friday that they will introduce legislation [press release] establishing stricter rules on assisted suicide [JURIST news archive] after a consultation with local governments, government agencies and other organizations found that 75 percent of respondents favored such a bill [text, PDF; in French]. According to the statement, "[a]lthough a clear majority believes in the need for action at federal level, there is still no consensus about how exactly organised assisted suicide should be governed." The FDJP is charged with drafting a bill establishing a duty of care for those helping people end their lives. Swiss law currently allows euthanasia [FDJP backgrounder] so long as long as those assisting in the death do not stand to gain from the death. Although some respondents proposed banning organized assisted suicide altogether, the Federal Council rejected this option [AP report] partly out of concern that it would violate patients' right to self-determination. Although the right to assisted suicide enjoys broad support in Switzerland, a recent study [SwissInfo report] found that most Swiss citizens oppose foreigners traveling to Switzerland with the help of groups such as the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] and Exit International [advocacy website] to end their lives. The Federal Council also asked the Federal Department of Home Affairs [official website] to look into ways to decrease the number of suicides in Switzerland. The FDJP is to finish its draft by the end of this year.

In February, UK Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer published a policy [JURIST report] introducing guidelines against prosecution of English citizens who travel to Switzerland for assisted suicide. At the end of last year, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide does not violate Montana law [JURIST report], making Montana the third US state, after Oregon and Washington, to allow the practice. Last year, the Swiss Federal Council proposed a number of regulations [JURIST report] that would have implemented additional procedural requirements on a person seeking assisted suicide. Last September, the UK released an interim policy [JURIST report] on assisted suicide that lists factors to be considered in determining which cases to prosecute.

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