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Assisted suicide in Switzerland - an analysis of death records from Swiss institutes of forensic medicine


Bartsch, Christine; Landolt, Karin; Ristic, Anita; Reisch, Thomas; Ajdacic-Gross, Vladeta (2019). Assisted suicide in Switzerland - an analysis of death records from Swiss institutes of forensic medicine. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 116(33-34):545-552.

Abstract

Background: The aim of this research project, part of a program initiated by the Swiss Federal Council, was to trace the development of organized assisted suicide in Switzerland, starting from the very first case in 1985.

Methods: Retrospective data on 3666 death records from Swiss institutes of forensic medicine for the years 1985 to 2014 were systematically compiled, read into a database, and for the most part quantitatively evaluated.

Results: Alongside a marked increase in the overall number of assisted suicides since the turn of the century, the number of people traveling to Switzerland from other countries—predominantly Germany—for this purpose has risen steadily. The proportion of women was 60%, and the age at death ranged from 18 to 105 years (median 73). The largest diagnostic category was malignancy overall, neurological disease for those from other countries. The next largest category was age-related functional limitation, e.g., sensory impairment (loss of sight and hearing), the consequences of which were stated in writing as the reason for the wish to die. Following the Swiss Federal Court’s promulgation of binding requirements in 2006, the documentation contained in the death records for the subsequent period up to 2014 is much more detailed, but still not uniform or even necessarily complete.

Conclusion: The number of candidates for organized assisted suicide increased steadily during the study period, but no standard procedures were followed. The question therefore arises of whether further regulation or the introduction of a central registration office to maximize standardization and promote transparency would lead to improved quality assurance.

Abstract

Background: The aim of this research project, part of a program initiated by the Swiss Federal Council, was to trace the development of organized assisted suicide in Switzerland, starting from the very first case in 1985.

Methods: Retrospective data on 3666 death records from Swiss institutes of forensic medicine for the years 1985 to 2014 were systematically compiled, read into a database, and for the most part quantitatively evaluated.

Results: Alongside a marked increase in the overall number of assisted suicides since the turn of the century, the number of people traveling to Switzerland from other countries—predominantly Germany—for this purpose has risen steadily. The proportion of women was 60%, and the age at death ranged from 18 to 105 years (median 73). The largest diagnostic category was malignancy overall, neurological disease for those from other countries. The next largest category was age-related functional limitation, e.g., sensory impairment (loss of sight and hearing), the consequences of which were stated in writing as the reason for the wish to die. Following the Swiss Federal Court’s promulgation of binding requirements in 2006, the documentation contained in the death records for the subsequent period up to 2014 is much more detailed, but still not uniform or even necessarily complete.

Conclusion: The number of candidates for organized assisted suicide increased steadily during the study period, but no standard procedures were followed. The question therefore arises of whether further regulation or the introduction of a central registration office to maximize standardization and promote transparency would lead to improved quality assurance.

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Additional indexing

Other titles:Assistierte Suizide in der Schweiz - Auswertung der in den Schweizer Instituten für Rechtsmedizin dokumentierten Todesfälle
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > General Medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Medicine
Language:German
Date:19 August 2019
Deposited On:07 Feb 2020 16:16
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 13:59
Publisher:Deutscher Ärzte-Verlag
ISSN:1866-0452
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2019.0545

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