Voluntary suicide is in demand more than ever

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Every year thousands of people become members of Exit, Switzerland’s largest organization dedicated to helping people with dignity and volunteerism. The past 2017 was no exception in this sense: over the past twelve months, Exit has registered 10,078 new members. Anyone who meets certain criteria can use the services of this organization.

As of the end of 2017, Exit had a total of 110,391 members in German-speaking Switzerland and the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. In western French-speaking Switzerland, the figure stood at 26,205. In just 12 months last year, 734 people voluntarily passed away in German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino, accompanied by employees of the Exit organization. There were 723 of them a year earlier. The figures for western Switzerland will be published at the end of April 2018.

What is an assisted suicide organization?
The first organizations to help people enjoy their “right to die” were founded in Switzerland about 35 years ago. These include Exit, Dignitas, Ex International and Lifecircle. Organizations are engaged in legal, medical, ethical and any other necessary support for people who wished to leave this world for one reason or another at a certain point in their lives, and protect their interests.

What does Swiss law say?
The legislation in force in Switzerland allows voluntary euthanasia (death) only in the case when the patient commits suicide himself, while the persons who support him and help him in this should not have the slightest personal interest in the death of this person. “Facilitating voluntary suicide” became legal in the country in the 1940s.

What are the requirements for a person who wants to receive assistance from Exit?
A person who has expressed a desire to use the services of “escorted suicide” must:

– to be fully aware of their actions;

– not to act in a state of passion;

– consider in advance all alternatives to suicide;

– have a desire for death of a “systemic”, not one-time nature;

– not be under the influence of third parties;

– commit suicide with your own hands.

If Dignitas offers assisted suicide services to foreigners as well, Exit is only available to persons with permanent residence in Switzerland.

Both organizations, however, help only people with hopeless diagnoses, suffering from unbearable pain, with a degree of irreparable disability incompatible with a dignified human existence.

Who becomes a member of the organization?
Exit’s main clients (60%) are women. The average age of members of the organization is 78 years (data as of 2017). In 2016, this indicator was at the level of 76.7 years.

The most common diseases, due to which people wanted to end their life path, were cancer at the last stage, multiple age-related diseases, chronic fatal pain syndrome.

Most of Exit’s patients are residents of the Zurich metropolitan area (the headquarters of the organization is located in Zurich), as well as the cantons of Bern, Aargau, St. Gallen, Basel-urban and Basel-rural.

How common is assisted suicide in Switzerland?
In 2017, 3,500 people turned to Exit for consultations, which is 1,000 more than in 2014. All the criteria were met by 1,031 people.

Nevertheless, according to Exit data, the share of assisted suicide cases in the overall statistics of deaths in Switzerland remains minimal at 1.5% (about 66 thousand in absolute numbers).

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