Zurich: A Swiss organisation that helps people take their own lives has voted to extend its services to elderly people who are not terminally ill.
Exit added “suicide due to old age” to their statutes at an annual general meeting held over the weekend, allowing people suffering from psychological or physical problems associated with old age the choice to end their life.
Assisted dying is legal in Switzerland and technically even a healthy young person could use such services. However, organisations involved in this work set their own internal requirements.
The move has been criticised by the Swiss Medical Association amid fears it will encourage suicide among the elderly. “We do not support the change of statutes by Exit. It gives us cause for concern because it cannot be ruled out that elderly healthy people could come under pressure of taking their own life,” said the association’s president, Dr Schlup.
But Exit said that most people who would choose this option were already members of the organisation and had been looking into assisted dying for years.
“Our members told us to get active on this subject. It was ripe for a decision,” Exit’s vice-president, Bernhard Sutter, said.
“Assisted suicide is a lengthy process. Doctors must take tests and talk to patients for hours asking them to justify their motivations...,” said Sutter.