Stricter controls placed on Swiss suicide centres

Switzerland’s controversial assisted suicide groups are to face tough new restrictions amid fears that foreigners are travelling to the country to access ‘quick suicides’.

As part of a new agreement with EXIT, the second largest assisted suicide group in Switzerland, patients will have to undergo a longer period of counselling before they are helped to end their lives.

The new rules, initially applying only in the Zurich region, will also narrow the circumstances in which an individual will be eligible for assisted suicide.

The plans have been condemned by Ludwig Minelli, founder of the Swiss suicide facility Dignitas, where over 100 Britons have so far ended their lives.

Mr Minelli said: “The agreement is directed completely against our organisation.”

He added: “The new laws would fit perfectly in a police state.”

It recently emerged that several of the British suicides at Dignitas have been among people not suffering from terminal illnesses.

An attempt to make it legal to help someone travel to a suicide clinic overseas was defeated earlier this month after the House of Lords heard how such a law could put vulnerable people at risk.

Commenting on the new rules, Zurich Justice Minister Markus Notter said they would stop “so called ‘quick suicides’ for foreign patients”.

He continued: “It is essential that people decide by their own free will.

“They also need to be informed about alternatives such as palliative care.”

The new agreement is set to come into force in the Zurich area in the autumn, but some Government ministers want tighter rules nationwide.

Swiss national Justice Minister Eveline Wildmer Schlumpf said: “Two variations of the legislation are going to be considered in autumn, one is a complete ban on assisted suicide and one is the introduction of stricter, clearer legislation”.

Under the new agreement patients will have to attend counselling over a number of months before having an assisted suicide.

Patients will have to prove they are suffering from a serious terminal illness, severe disability, or the after effects of a serious accident.

People under 25 will also be banned from having an assisted suicide unless they are experiencing severe physical suffering.

The amount that can be charged for assisting a suicide will be capped at 500 Swiss francs (£283), compared with the 6,000 Euros (£5170) currently charged by Dignitas.

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