Number of 'suicide tourists' to Switzerland doubles
British people are the second biggest group of 'suicide tourists', according to a new study, which shows the number of people travelling to assisted dying clinics in Switzerland has doubled in three years.
Two Irish people were among the more than 600 people that travelled to Switzerland for help taking their own lives between 2008 and 2012 at one of four clinics which permit non-Swiss nationals.
The annual number of so-called 'suicide tourists' doubled between 2009 and 2012, according to research carried out by the University of Zurich.
Despite attempts to change the law in the country, assisted-dying clinics can operate legally in Switzerland and have attracted large numbers of people with terminal illnesses and debilitating medical conditions from other European countries where euthanasia is illegal.
The new analysis reveals that 126 UK nationals were helped to die between 2008 and 2012 - making it the country with the largest number travelling for euthanasia after Germany.
One in three people who were helped to die were suffering from more than one condition, the researchers said, with neurological conditions the most common reason for seeking euthanasia, followed by cancer and rheumatic diseases, which are conditions of the joints and muscles.
The researchers said that the rise of suicide tourism had been a major factor in prompting debates in other countries over the ethics of euthanasia.
Polls in recent years have revealed strong public support for some form of legalised assisted dying in the UK.
This latest study is published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Writing in the journal, ethicist and lawyer Dr Charles Foster, a research associate at Oxford University's Ethox Centre, said connections between 'suicide tourism' and the debate in the UK were not good arguments for changing the law.
"The first [connection] is the liberalisation of public opinion that comes naturally, if irrationally, with familiarity," he writes. "And the second is the slowly growing public acknowledgement that there is something intellectually, if not morally, uncomfortable, about getting another country to do your dirty work." (©Independent News Service)