Sunday, August 24, 2014

Suicide Tourism

...611 people not resident in Switzerland had been helped to die between 2008 and 2012....all but four of whom had gone to Dignitas....ages ranged from 23 to 97....over half of the 'tourists' were women.....
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Unlike the Caliphate-bound, hip-hop artists lusting after head-less homies, these Switzerland-bound folks are the gentle and thoughtful type. They kill themselves, presumably because they feel guilty of being a burden on their near and dear ones.

Indian patriots should be pleased...as of now the score reads: India: 1, China: 0. But this should be no ground for complacency, as they say, a good start is only half the game.

Switzerland (Canton of Zurich to be precise) is the primary beneficiary of suicide tourism because of Dignitas, the NGO foundation, which performs/advocates for euthanasia of unfit people - the old, the infirm, the tired and the sick (see link below). Just as Irish women travel to the UK for terminating pregnancies, scores of British (and German) tourists are traveling to Switzerland for terminating lives.

It is not our place to comment on public policy but we observe that tourism in India is facing some head-winds (lack of safety for women, lack of alcohol...even in God's own country). Just like surrogacy tourism, suicide tourism can be a potentially new line of business. And unlike Dignitas, in India you have an infinite ways to end your life.

It is our understanding that this is very much in line with Indian (Hindu) culture and tradition. In Vedic times, a person's life was divided into four phases or the Chatur-Ashram: Brahmacharya (study time as a child), Garhasthya (family time as a couple), Vana-prastha (literally escape to the forest, leaving the family behind) and finally, Sanyas (live your life out in the forest). The average age of the suicide tourist today is 69, which is exactly following the Vana-prastha/Sanyas mode.

The message (then and now) seems to be clear: do NOT trouble your family or the larger society with your old age problems. This concept of a life without value is also applicable to youth with health problems (presently as young as 23). It is surely a matter of great pride that people world-wide are appreciating (and following) age-old wisdom about old age.
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The numbers of 'suicide tourists' going to Switzerland to take their own lives have doubled within four years with citizens from Germany and UK contributing to the largest per cent. Those with neurological conditions, such as paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, account for almost half of the cases.

While 123 people undertook suicide tourism in 2008, the number rose to 172 in 2012. The data shows that nationals from 31 different countries were helped to die in Switzerland between 2008 and 2012, with German (268) and UK (126) nationals making up almost two thirds of the total. Other countries in the top 10 include France (66), Italy (44), USA (21), Austria (14), Canada (12), Spain and Israel (each with 8).

The data base made public on Thursday morning shows one case from India as well in 2012.

The study by Oxford University looked at whether the availability of suicide tourism in Switzerland had prompted changes in the law on assisted suicide elsewhere.

While assisted suicide (AS) is strictly restricted in many countries including India, it is not clearly regulated by law in Switzerland. This imbalance leads to an influx of people — suicide tourists — coming to the Canton of Zurich with the sole purpose of committing suicide. Political debate regarding 'suicide tourism' is taking place in many countries. Swiss medico legal experts are confronted with these cases almost daily, which prompted our scientific investigation of the phenomenon, said the researchers.

Researchers therefore searched the databases of the Institute of Legal Medicine in Zurich for information on investigations and post mortem examinations among non-Swiss nationals who had been helped to take their own lives between 2008 and 2012.

The search revealed that 611 people who were not resident in Switzerland had been helped to die between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom had gone to Dignitas. Their ages ranged from 23 to 97, with the average being 69; over half (58.5%) of the 'tourists' were women, who were 40% more likely to choose assisted suicide in Switzerland than men.



The rises were particularly steep in certain countries, especially Italy — up from 4 in 2009 to 22 in 2012, and France, up from 7 in 2009 to 19 in 2012. Overall, the numbers of people being helped to die in Switzerland doubled between 2009 and 2012.

The study published on Thursday in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggest that the phenomenon of suicide tourism, which is unique to Switzerland, has prompted legislative changes and/or serious debate in Germany, the UK, and France—the principal sources of this type of tourism.

Six official voluntary right-to-die organisations are active in Switzerland and offer AS to their members, providing that they fulfil various conditions. Four of the six organisations also offer suicide assistance to people who are neither Swiss citizens nor resident in Switzerland, but who come from other European countries, for example, the UK, France and Italy, where AS is restricted by law and anyone contravening this law may be liable to several years' imprisonment.

The paper says "our results show that AS is chosen 1.4 times more often by women. The median age of the suicide tourists in our study was 69 years, an age at high risk of malignancy or chronic disease. After a decrease between 2008 and 2009, the number of suicide tourists doubled between 2009 and 2012.

"With respect to the underlying diseases, our results showed that neurological diseases were the reason for AS in nearly half of the study group. Neurological diseases and rheumatic diseases increased between 1990 and 2012, while cancer became less common. These results imply that non-fatal diseases or diseases that are not yet end stage are more often becoming the reason for seeking AS."

The authors said, "The phenomenon of suicide tourism has been growing over the years and is still increasing unabated. Our results showed an increasing proportion of neurological and rheumatic diseases diagnosed among the suicide tourists. This implies that non-fatal diseases are increasing among suicide tourists and probably also among Swiss residents, although potential suicide tourists with a terminal illness might not be able to travel to a foreign country."

"The phenomenon of suicide tourism unique to Switzerland can indeed result in amendment or supplementary guidelines to existing regulations in foreign countries, as shown by our examples of the top three countries from which suicide tourists traveled. Political debate in Switzerland and other countries is continuing, with the possibility of further amendments in the near future, in both Switzerland and elsewhere, unless Switzerland issues clear and structured regulations on suicide tourism."

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Link (1): UK-researchers-confirm-worrying-increase-in-suicide-tourism

Link (2): dignitas.ch
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regards