Switzerland: a prisoner resorts to assisted suicide, a first
This is a first in the country. A detainee ended his life in Switzerland by resorting to an organization assisted suicide according to information to appear Thursday in the newspaper Wochenzeitung. The man, whose name has not been released, died on February 28 with the support of the organization Exit. According to the newspaper, he was detained in the prison of Bostadel (north), near Zurich.
Questioned by AFP, Exit indicated that “due to the protection of data and personality, we cannot give information on assisted or even accompanied suicides”. The Directorate of Justice and the Interior of the canton of Zurich confirmed to the Swiss press agency ATS that an assisted suicide had indeed taken place in the area of the execution of sentences and measures, but did not given more detailed information about the detainee.
The Zurich judicial authorities have explained that the right of any person capable of discernment to choose the mode and time of his death also applies to prisoners. In Switzerland, according to the law, only those who, “driven by a selfish motive”, lend assistance to someone’s suicide are punishable. The practice of organized assistance with suicide is however framed by the codes of medical ethics and organizations such as Exit and Dignitas, which have enacted their own safeguards (age, illnesses, etc.).
An act most often performed at home
The procedure generally takes place at the person’s home or at the home of a relative. In some cantons, it can also take place in an institution for the elderly or nursing home, as well as in certain hospitals.
In 2018, life inmate Peter Vogt asked for the first time in a television report to to be able to end one’s life with Exit, sparking many debates in Switzerland. This recidivist rapist served his sentence many years ago but has since been interned for life – the most radical measure in the Swiss criminal arsenal, introduced in 2004 by popular vote – in the Bostadel prison establishment because his mental disorders make him very dangerous. “It is more humane to want to commit suicide than to be buried alive for years to come,” he wrote to AFP, saying he suffered from multiple illnesses such as kidney and heart failure.
The Swiss authorities had requested the opinion of the Swiss Competence Center for the Execution of Criminal Sanctions (CSCSP), which had subsequently considered that the assisted suicide of prisoners should be possible, under certain conditions, because of the “right to self-determination of individuals.