The lower house of the Swiss parliament has declined to tighten controls on assisted suicide. MPs felt that self-regulation by groups like Exit and Dignitas was enough.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said that reform was not needed because the number of foreigners dying in Switzerland had actually declined in recent years, from 199 in 2006 to 97 in 2010. Most come from Germany, France or Britain.

“It’s about the question of dignity at the end of one’s life. In the end each person can only decide on this dignity for him or herself. It’s about questions of self-determination,” she told the media.

The vote in parliament supports last year’s referendum in Zurich when voters rejected proposed bans on assisted suicide and “suicide tourism”. Assisted suicide has been allowed in Switzerland since 1941 if aided by a non-physician who has no vested interest in the death.

Not everyone supports the work of assisted suicide groups. “One should regulate oversight of assisted suicide organisations. These organisations work as companies, run advertisements for members and want payment for their work,” said Christian Democrat Ida Glanzmann-Hunkeler.

Outside of Switzerland, the issue of suicide tourism for foreigners is best known, but more Swiss die this way. The number of Swiss residents choosing this option has skyrocketed from 43 in 1998 to nearly 300 in 2009.

Swiss groups may soon have competition, as well. Verein Sterbehilfe Deutschland (StHD), a German group, is setting up an office in Zurich. It fears that it will soon be outlawed if the German government bans assisted suicide for profit. Should that happen, it will be able to carry on its business in Switzerland. ~ SwissInfo, Sept 26; The Local, Sept 15

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.