The number of assisted suicides for Swiss residents has risen by 700 per cent in the space of 11 years, according to new figures.
In what is believed to be a first, Switzerland’s Federal Statistics Office has published official statistics showing how many people ended their lives by assisted dying between 1998 and 2009.
Almost 300 Swiss residents died in this manner in 2009, compared to just 43 in 1998.
The vast majority of people were over 55, and the figures also showed that women were more likely to be killed by assisted suicide than men. Cancer was cited as the main reason in nearly half of all cases.
Last year Zurich voters rejected bans on both assisted suicide and “suicide tourism” – foreigners travelling to Switzerland to end their lives.
Figures from Dignitas, a Swiss suicide clinic, showed that the organisation helped 1,298 people commit suicide between 1998 and 2011.
The news follows a debate in the House of Commons last week, where an attempt to undermine the law against assisted suicide was unanimously rejected by MPs.
The Commons gave unanimous backing to an amendment encouraging the development of specialist palliative care services.
MPs were considering controversial guidance on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide which was issued in 2010 by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In Scotland, an Independent MSP has launched a second attempt to overturn the law against assisted suicide north of the Border.
Margo MacDonald’s last attempt to legalise assisted suicide was soundly rejected in 2010 by 85 votes to 16.
Now the Lothians MSP has launched a consultation on a proposed new Bill which would allow those suffering from a terminal illness to end their lives.
Critics have warned it would set a dangerous precedent, with opponents including the British Medical Association Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church.