Euthanasia in Switzerland

The euthanasia in Switzerland is legally authorized under conditions defined by law.

The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation summarize the situation as follows 1 :

“In Switzerland , the assisted suicide is not punishable, provided that it does not respond to a selfish motive. This liberal regulation makes it possible both to protect human life and to respect the will of those wishing to end their lives. Switzerland is distinguished in this respect from the countries surrounding it, which has led to the appearance of the so-called phenomenon of “death tourism” 2 , with its undesirable consequences. It remains to be seen whether these two forms of euthanasia need to be specifically addressed at the law level. On the other hand, there is no doubt that direct active euthanasia (intentional homicide intended to shorten the suffering of a person) must remain punishable in all cases. ”

Euthanasia provided by law

Swiss law never explicitly authorizes euthanasia but seeks to protect individuals from “false euthanasia”.

The expression ” euthanasia ” ( gr : ευθανασία – ευ, “good”, θανατος, ” death “) originally refers to the act of ending the life of another person to avoid agony 3 , To determine who should define agony. For self-interest, a person may be tempted to murder an individual and hide his or her crime under the guise of euthanasia.

Swiss law therefore considers, as a matter of principle, a mitigated homicide. Thus, intentional homicide in order to shorten the suffering of a person remains illegal in Switzerland even at the request of the victim (Article 114 of the Swiss Criminal Code 4 ). Like assisted suicide, but only if it is driven by a “selfish motive” (Article 115 of the Criminal Code 5 ).

Towards an Acceptance of Active Euthanasia in Exceptional Circumstances?

On December 6, 2010, active euthanasia was called into question by the Boudry District Court . A former cantonal physician of the canton of Neuchâtel , prosecuted for active euthanasia, was acquitted. The former cantonal doctor, who was no longer in office at the time of the incident, had made the last move in a procedure to aid the suicide of a totally paralyzed woman.

Doomed to die by suffocation due to ALS , the patient had appealed to Exit . But when the time came, on September 10, 2009, she could not move more than one foot. The ex-cantonal doctor had then offered to send her the lethal product when she moved her foot.

If the judge pointed out that Article 114 was indeed transgressed, the court also held that the patient had the will to die (expressed several times before) and considered that it would have been “cruel not to act ” . The accused, in the words of the judge “had no alternative to preserve human dignity and the will of the patient 6 . ” In this sense, the Court joined the arguments of the defense contention that the legislature did not want to say, through Article 114 ” If you can give you death with your thumb, that’s OK. If you can not, it’s all too bad. ” The former cantonal doctor would have acted in a state of necessity which would, in the judgment, its excusable act. Thus, for the Court, the law contained a breach.

The prosecutor said he would read the “whereas” before deciding if he would resort to the Federal Court 7 . January 4, 2011, the Public Prosecutor of the Canton of Neuchâtel ad waive any claim, making the payment of the final cantonal former physician 8 , 9 .

Forms of euthanasia tolerated

According to a report by the Working Group on Assistance to Death , set up by the Swiss Federal Department of Police and Justice: “There is no explicit legal regulation of passive euthanasia and indirect active euthanasia. These two forms of euthanasia are already considered admissible today. Currently these forms of euthanasia are processed in related guidelines of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences 10 . ”

Passive euthanasia and indirect active euthanasia are therefore tolerated in Switzerland. The ethics code of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) thus authorizes “the renunciation of the implementation or cessation of the measures necessary for the maintenance of life” (passive euthanasia) and the “administration of substance to reduce suffering And whose side effects are likely to reduce survival time “(active indirect euthanasia).

Exit , from the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity (ADMD), provides residents of French-speaking Switzerland with the possibility of receiving support for suicide. Other associations of this type exist, such as Dignitas .

Current Debates in Switzerland

On 17 June 2003, the Council of States adopted the motion Euthanasia and Palliative Medicine . The motion instructs the Federal Council to submit proposals for legislative regulation of indirect active euthanasia and passive euthanasia and to take steps to promote palliative medicine.

On 4 July 2003, the FDJP instructed the National Ethics Commission to examine the whole issue of assistance with death from an ethical and legal point of view.

On February 5, 2004, the FDJP relieved the National Ethics Commission of its mandate, since it had neither the human resources nor the financial means to fulfill it.

On 10 March 2004, the National Council adopted the motion by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of Euthanasia and Palliative Medicine .

On June 11, 2005, the National Ethics Commission issued recommendations related to assisted suicide.

On February 6, 2006, the FOJ consulted the administration on a preliminary draft of the report Assistance to Death and Palliative Medicine: Should the Confederation legislate?

On 31 May 2006, the Federal Council took note of the report: Assistance for Death and Palliative Medicine: Should the Swiss Confederation legislate? It recommends that Parliament renounce the need to undertake a review of the relevant provisions of the Penal Code and to adopt a law on the admission and supervision of organizations assisting suicide.

On 29 August 2007, the Federal Council took note of the supplementary report on assistance on death.

On July 2, 2008, the Federal Council instructed the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) to thoroughly examine the need for specific legal provisions on organized suicide assistance and to submit a report at the beginning Of 2009.

On December 6, 2010, the Neuchâtel court acquitted the former cantonal doctor prosecuted for active euthanasia.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Source: Federal Department of Justice and Police, “Themes: Assistance at death”,, 7 July 2008.  [ Archive ]
  2. ↑ See for example: Robert Zimmerman, ” A new” euthanasia kit “creates stir in Switzerland  [ archive ] “, Rue89 , 28 March 2008
  3. ↑ The Treasury of the French Language  [ archive ] ( TLF ) defines it as a “gentle death, where suffering is absent, either naturally or by the effect of a therapy in an induced sleep” and, almost in same terms, the Grand Robert French language ( GRLF ) as a “gentle and painless death, occurring naturally or through the use of sedative or narcotic substances” ; The Encyclopedia Hachette multimedia ( EHM ) recalls that the word “was created by the English philosopher Francis Bacon, who considered that the doctor’s role was not only to heal but to alleviate the suffering associated with the disease and, Cure was impossible, to procure the patient a “gentle and peaceful death” ; Le Petit Larousse 2007 ( PL07 ) finally, instead attaching itself to a legal definition, things like the “act of a doctor who causes the death of a terminally ill to end suffering or agony” , and specifies that ‘It is ‘ illegal in most countries. “
  4. ↑ Article 114 of the Swiss Penal Code : ” Murder at the request of the victim. Anyone who gives way to an honorable motive, in particular to pity, will have killed a person on the serious and urgent request of the latter shall be punished by deprivation of liberty for not more than three years or by a penalty pecuniary. ”
    Source: Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation  [ archive ]
  5. ↑ Article 115 of the Criminal Code: ” Incitement and assistance to suicide. A person who, prompted by a selfish motive, has induced a person to commit suicide, or has assisted him for suicide, shall, if the suicide has been consummated or attempted, be punishable by deprivation of liberty for up to five years Or a pecuniary penalty. ”
    Source: Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation  [ archive ]
  6. The Time of December 7, 2010  [ archive ]
  7. TSR info  [ archive ]
  8. ↑ ” Daphne Berner definitively bleached [ archive ] , on (accessed 25 November 2016 )
  9. ↑ Philippe Chopard, ” Assisted suicide: acquittal is final “, The Courier , ( Read online  [archive ] )
  10. ↑ Working Group on Death Assistance , “Direct Euthanasia for Relieving Unbearable Suffering: Positions and Report of the Working Group”, Federal Department of Justice and Police , Berne, 29 April 1999. [ read online  [ Archive ] ]