"Suicide tourists" to Switzerland, arriving to take advantage of laws permitting assisted suicide, are increasing, a report said Thursday.
A study of a project by Zurich's Institute of Legal Medicine, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, reported 172 people traveled to Switzerland in 2012, double the number in 2009, and 611 from 31 countries since 2008, to secure the help of six Swiss right-to-die organizations in assisted suicide, a phenomenon unique to Switzerland.
Germans were the largest group, with 268, followed by those from the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States. Most of the deaths were caused by taking sodium pentobarbital in pill form, nicknamed "the peaceful pill."
"In the UK at least, 'going to Switzerland' has become a euphemism" for assisted suicide, the authors wrote. They added the current Swiss law is unclear, with no rules regulating the circumstances under which a person can obtain assisted suicide.
The reasons for a choosing to die, the study said, were typically neurological conditions including paralysis, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
"If Switzerland is happy to continue providing the facility then, however intellectually dishonest it may be to allow her to siphon of all our own English pain, fear, angst and debate, is it likely to do less harm overall than introducing any conceivable assisted suicide law into England," medical lawyer Charles Foster wrote in a supplementary commentary to the study.
A survey of 12 European countries found majorities in favor of assisted suicide, the study noted, about the same number that favor it in the four U.S. states currently permitting the practice: Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
Original headline: to (sic) Switzerland doubled since 2009
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