By Tim Waggoner

ZURICH, November 6, 2008 ( – A recent study has revealed that a large number of non-terminally ill men and women are seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland, which has some of the most liberal laws in the world governing the controversial practice.  Conservative bioethicists have responded saying they not surprised by the findings, claiming that the roots established by the euthanasia movement have created a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to a universal human “right to die.”

Researchers from the University of Zurich and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences examined the cases of 421 people who obtained assisted suicides in Switzerland between 2001 and 2004.  The study focused on the two assisted-suicide groups, Dignitas and Exit, who helped 274 and 147 people, respectively, commit suicide. 

They found that 79 percent of the 274 people with Dignitas and 67 percent of the 147 with Exit were terminally ill; the remaining individuals were not terminally ill when they committed suicide.  The study also found that 91 percent of those who died with Dignitas were foreigners, compared to the three percent of foreigners choosing Exit.

Susan Fischer, who co-authored the review on assisted suicides in Zurich said, “Being tired of life and in very poor health are becoming more frequent reasons to seek help to commit suicide than in the past.”

Other experts go one step further, saying that reasons such as suffering or being tired of life are accidentals to the main campaign by the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement, which is focused on establishing a universal human “right to die.”

“This is not new, because the right to die movement for a long time had been promoting the concept of euthanasia for those people who are tired of living,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, in a interview.  “All it means is that the people at the Dignitas and Exit clinics have fulfilled these ideals by offering death on demand.  They have gone where other places are planning to go.”

Schadenberg related how he witnessed a Dutch speaker at a 2006 right to die conference promoting a universal human right to die. “The Swiss, in their clinics, are fulfilling what the other groups are fighting to achieve.  This is not about terminal illness, or suffering. It’s about their final goal which is the universal human right to die.”

Exit officially rejected the study in a statement. But in an interview with Reuters, Bernhard Sutter of Exit’s board admitted that about one third of the people committing suicide with Exit are people not suffering from a fatal disease, but are in a “bad state.”

“We help only people with fatal diseases or who are very seriously ill. For the last 12 years, the number suffering from fatal diseases has always been the same, between 65 and 75 percent. The rest, maybe a third or less, are very ill,” said Sutter.

Prominent bioethicist Wesley Smith also addressed the growing assisted suicide trend, alluding to the fact that the umbrella of circumstances in which assisted suicide or euthanasia are permitted will only be broadened as the practice becomes more socially accepted.

Anyone pondering the issue rationally, he said, “would realize that once assisted suicide/euthanasia consciousness becomes widely accepted, the categories of the terminated expand. And now, waddya know, a study of assisted suicide in Switzerland shows that an increasing number of the cases have been of people who are not terminally ill.”

“Expect that trend to continue as the idea that ending life is an acceptable answer to human suffering digs deeper into the world’s moral bedrock,” finished Smith.

In related news, the November fourth vote saw Washington become the second US state allowing legal assisted suicide.  Initiative 1000, the Washington “Death with Dignity Act,” which allows physicians to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to patients whom a doctor feels is likely to die within six months, passed in the state 59% to 41%.

For related coverage see:

Washington Becomes 2nd US State with Legal Assisted Suicide