In the United States, “aid-in-dying” as some advocates call it, is legal in New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana. But the conditions under which a physician can help someone die are regulated—for example, in Washington, the person must be a resident, and be terminally ill with less than six months to live.
But Switzerland does not have clear regulations on assisted suicide, as highlighted by a new study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, though it’s not for lack of trying. Several proposed regulations over the past few decades have failed. Six voluntary right-to-die organizations exist in the country, each with their own criteria, and four of them offer services to residents of other countries.
The Swiss researchers write that “the six right-to-die organizations assist in approximately 600 cases of suicide per year; some 150 to 200 of which are suicide tourists,” or people coming to Switzerland seeking aid-in-dying. The study looks at the data on suicide tourism in the greater Zurich area between 2008 and 2012.
In almost all of the instances of people coming to Switzerland from a foreign country seeking assisted suicide, Dignitas was the organization involved, and the people typically died by ingesting sodium pentobarbital (in all but four cases in 2008, in which they died by inhaling helium).