VAUD, Switzerland, June 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Citizens of the Swiss canton Vaud voted last Sunday in a referendum to bring the business of death into nursing homes and hospitals. When the new law goes into effect, doctors will be forced to comply with the demands of eligible people who request assisted suicide or face legal consequences.
The referendum arose when Exit, the foremost assisted suicide organization in the country, launched an initiative and gathered 14,000 signatures to make subsidized assisted suicide available in nursing homes and hospitals.
The pro-death organization argued that the elderly and the infirm must be legally empowered with the “right to self-determination” so that they can enlist the services of medical professionals to help them commit suicide, according to Tribune deGenève.
While 61.6 percent of Vaud citizens voted to bring assisted suicide into area nursing homes, they rejected Exit’s proposal, opting instead for a government counter-proposal that allows persons to make use of Exit’s assisted suicide services only if they first meet certain criteria.
These criteria include that the person in question must be suffering from a terminal illness and furthermore be judged competent to make a free decision. The head of the nursing home or the chief physician in the hospital must determine that a person meets both criteria before giving an approval for death.
In Swiss law, assisted suicide is currently illegal. Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code states that anyone assisting in the suicide of another person “for selfish motives” is guilty of an offense punishable by up to five years in jail or a monetary penalty.
Pierre-Yves Maillard, cantonal health minister and proponent of the counter-initiative, told the newspaper Tribune deGenève that launching a counter-initiative against Exit’s initiative was a strategy implemented to directly influence the debate. “If we had not launched a counter-proposal, the debate would have taken place between supporters of Exit and people whose minds were closed to assisted suicide. This debate has led to a successful initiative,” he said.
Up until now, Exit’s medical staff have used the Article’s legal loophole of “for selfish motives” to assist in the death of their clients, arguing that their work is not carried out for selfish ends. The new law will give Exit even greater freedom to act.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Collation, pointed out that Exit is poised for significant financial gain by pushing the business of death into nursing homes. Schadenberg noted how the organization operates its business by selling memberships to assisted suicide supporters and then charges members a fee for each client they are asked to assist in killing.
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Exit supporters were pleased with the result of the referendum, despite their own proposal having failed at the polls.
The organization’s president, Jerome Sobel, called the vote a “half-step in the right direction.”
“The use of assisted suicide is no longer a freedom,” he said. “It is now a right acquired with a strong popular legitimacy. We now have to learn this new legal framework.”
But not all agreed that the issue was settled.
“It’s still not right that the law requires us to act contrary to our conscience,” Jacques Chollet, chairman of the boards of trustees of Praz-Sun and Bethel nursing homes, told the Tribune deGenève.
Both Catholic and Protestant leaders in Vuad were reported to have spoken against the assisted suicide initiative. Eleven nursing homes run by religious groups publicly expressed their principled opposition to providing assisted suicide to their patients and have demanded an “exception clause.”
But health minister Maillard made it clear that there will be no exceptions to a law approved by the people. He said that those who do not cooperate with the new regulations will first be given a warning before “appropriate sanctions” are applied.
Wesley J. Smith, American bioethicist and attorney, commenting on the Swiss decision, said that the “West is fast becoming – and in some regards has already become – pro suicide.”
Smith, who has been fighting what he calls an “international campaign to legalize and normalize doctor-prescribed/administered death” since 1993, pointed out that “once euthanasia is let in the door, ultimately, enough is never, ever enough.”
Karl Gunning, head of the Dutch Doctors’ Union anticipated in 1994 the ethical Pandora’s box that would be opened once a country legally sanctioned the business of death: “We have always predicted that once you start looking at killing as a means to solve problems, then you’ll find more and more problems where killing can be the solution.”
“The moral of the story”, said Smith, is that “once the culture of death sinks into the bedrock of a society or culture, it brooks no dissent.”