Following the Dutch model, the Swiss medical association has given the green light to “passive” euthanasia as a legal medical practice. Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) has said that there is a need for strict controls on the practice of medical doctors “helping” terminally ill patients to die.  Werner Stauffacher, president of the Academy said, in a strangely self-contradictory statement, “We still state that assisted suicide is not part of normal medical practice, but we add that there are situations where assisted suicide can be comprehensible. So it’s no longer a complete ‘no’.”  Active euthanasia remains illegal in Switzerland, however, with the official national association opening the door to doctors prescribing lethal medication, the law is certain to be challenged. The distinction between “assisted suicide” and active euthanasia may be too fine for euthanasia activists to resist a court challenge that may overturn the law. Other forms of “passive” euthanasia, such as withdrawal of life saving drugs, are often allowed in some Swiss cantons.

In the Netherlands the move to legalize active euthanasia was started the same way. Doctors lobbied for the law to be changed to reflect what they were already doing. The same admonition was offered that careful restrictions should be put in place to avoid “abuses”. However, although reliable statistics are almost impossible to obtain from the Dutch situation, many credible reports have come to the attention of pro-life activists of doctors killing patients who had never requested euthanasia, and of patients being refused medical care after having refused euthanasia.

Very familiar rationalizations are being offered in Switzerland. “We want to avoid doctors, who are close to their patients, having to send them to organisations offering assisted suicide, which we consider go against medical values,” Stauffacher said. “We don’t want to let down the physician and we don’t want to let down his or her patient.”  In Switzerland, the same cautions are being made as were heard in the Netherlands that the practice of “assisted suicide” must only be allowed with “restrictions”.

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