Switzerland told to clarify vague assisted suicide laws

Xavier Symons
25 May 2013
Reproduced with Permission

A European Court has told Switzerland to make its assisted suicide laws more specific, after an 82-year-old woman seeking the procedure on the grounds of old age was denied it.

Alder Gross had requested euthanasia on account of diminishing mental and physical capability and an isolated and lonely life. Swiss doctors denied her the treatment, even after she appealed to the Zurich Health Board. Swiss law does not explicitly limit assisted suicide to the terminally ill.

Gross appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. This court ruled that has that "the absence of clear and comprehensive legal guidelines violated the applicant's right to respect for her private life".

It said Switzerland must specify whether its laws are meant to include people not suffering from terminal illnesses and, if so, spell out the conditions under which they can end their lives.

It also said the lack of clarity "is likely to have a chilling effect on doctors who would otherwise be inclined to provide someone such as the applicant with the requested medical prescription". However, the court did not specify whether the law should allow assisted suicide for non-terminally ill patients.