Officials have uncovered evidence that two clinics in Switzerland are helping clients to die who are simply depressed rather than suffering from incurable pain.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, the clinics have been accused of failing to carry out proper investigations into whether patients meet the requirements of Switzerland's right-to-die laws.
Andreas Brunner, the senior prosecutor of the Zurich canton, told The Sunday Telegraph, "We are not trying to ban the so-called death tourism, but the outsourcing of suicide must be put under stricter control. Prosecutors look into every suicide, assisted or not, and there are many cases where it is not clear whether the assisted person has chosen death in full possession of their decision-making capacity. But investigations are difficult due to lack of evidence after the suicide. We, therefore, demand that the federal government amend the legislation to enable closer and lengthier monitoring of suicide patients before their deaths."
Swiss laws allow doctors to provide "passive suicide assistance" to people who are terminally ill or in great suffering, with patients given a cocktail of drugs that they must administer themselves. Dignitas and Exit International are two clinics that offer the drugs and are where most of the 300 “assisted suicides” that occur in the country each year take place.
Questions over the practice first surfaced when it emerged that a 67-year-old German woman who committed suicide with help from Dignitas had presented the clinic with faked papers saying that she was dying of cirrhosis of the liver. It turned out that she had been suffering from alcoholism and depression.
Dr. Daniel Hell, of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics, a government regulatory body, said: "We suspect there could have been cases where people who suffered from a temporary depression have been helped to their deaths."