Suicide tourism numbers 'double'

Lord Falconer said it was time for

Lord Falconer said it was time for "a very limited and safeguarded change" to the law

First published in National News © by

Suicide tourism is on the rise, experts said after they found that the number of people travelling to Switzerland to take their own lives had doubled in four years.

One in five people who travelled to Zurich for assisted suicide between 2008 and 2012 were from the UK, researchers found.

Experts from the University of Zurich analysed data from the Zurich Institute of Legal Medicine database on assisted suicide of non-Swiss residents during the five year period.

They looked at 611 cases from 31 countries around the world - 126 of which were people from Britain.

Their paper, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, found that in 2008 there were 123 cases of suicide tourism.

This dipped to 86 cases in 2009 and increased steadily to 2012 when it reached 172 cases.

Overall, 58.5% of cases were women and the median age of those using these services was 69 - although the ages of people seeking help ranged from 23 to 97.

There are six "right to die" organisations operating in Switzerland that offer assisted suicide to their members - providing that they meet certain criteria.

Four of these bodies offer services to foreign nationals - including people from the UK.

These organisations deal with around 600 cases of suicide each year, some 150 to 200 of which are "suicide tourists", the researchers found.

The majority of cases of suicide tourism examined in the paper used the Swiss-based Dignitas organisation, which researchers said charged between 9,000 to 10,500 Swiss francs (about £6,000 to £7,000) for assisting suicide .

Neurological diseases including paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis were the most common reasons for assisted suicide - accounting for 47% of cases.

In Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal as long as the helper does not personally benefit from the death.

Assisted dying has been hotly debated in the House of Lords recently.

When he presented the Assisted Dying Bill, Lord Falconer said: "The current situation leaves the rich able to go to Switzerland, the majority reliant on amateur assistance, the compassionate treated like criminals.

"It is time for a change in the law but only a very limited and safeguarded change.

"It would not lead to more death but to less suffering."

The second reading of the Bill, which would offer the chance of assisted dying to terminally ill patients deemed mentally capable and within six months of likely death, took place in July and is to be moved to the next Parliamentary stage - the committee stage - at a date yet to be set.

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