X-Message-Number: 23390
From: =?koi8-r?Q?=22?=Mikhail Soloviev=?koi8-r?Q?=22=20?=<>
Subject: Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences relaxes rules on euthanasia
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2004 20:30:55 +0300

From: swissinfo, Friday 06.02.2004

Medical body relaxes rules on euthanasia

The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) has told doctors 
they can help terminally-ill patients die but only under 
strict conditions.
Thursday's announcement marked a U-turn by the academy, which 
had previously been firmly against all forms of euthanasia.

"We still state that assisted suicide is not part of normal 
medical practice, but we add that there are situations where 
assisted suicide can be comprehensible. So it's no longer a 
complete 'no'," Werner Stauffacher, president of the academy, 
told swissinfo.

The academy, which is made up of doctors, carers and legal 
workers, said the Swiss authorities should respect the 
decisions of doctors who supply terminally-ill patients with 
lethal drugs   a form of euthanasia known as assisted suicide.

It stressed, however, that it did not support active 
euthanasia - when a doctor actually administers the lethal 
drugs to the patient - even when a patient is judged able to 
make such a decision.

Although active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, the 
authorities often turn a blind eye to cases of assisted 

However, other forms of euthanasia, such as the withdrawal of 
life-sustaining drugs, are tolerated in a number of Swiss 
cantons, provided strict rules are followed.
Official support
The academy's recommendations will now be reviewed by Swiss 
doctors and a final set of directives will be drawn up towards 
the end of this year.

The academy's decision will ease the concerns of some doctors 
who have been convinced they are acting in the best interests 
of their patient but have been lacking official support.

"We want to avoid doctors, who are close to their patients, 
having to send them to organisations offering assisted 
suicide, which we consider go against medical values," 
Stauffacher said.

"We don't want to let down the physician and we don't want to 
let down his or her patient."

However, the academy said strict conditions should be met 
before such an action is taken.

Firstly, the doctor must be certain that the patient is close 
to dying. They must be able to determine that the patient has 
only a matter of days or weeks to live.

Secondly, the patient must be in a fit state to make a 
considered decision.

In addition, this decision must be made after a thorough 
process of contemplation and must not be influenced by 
pressure from others.

The doctor must also make sure that he or she has proposed all 
the available treatments to the patient.

Finally, in all cases, the patient must administer the lethal 
drugs themselves.
Ongoing debate
Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian who has called for a 
debate on euthanasia in the Council of Europe, said the 
academy's directive was a step in the right direction.

"These draft directives do not diminish the value of life, in 
fact they do the opposite," he told swissinfo. "They stress 
the importance of a patient's wishes."

Marty's proposal - that doctors who help terminally-ill 
patients to end their lives should be exempt from punishment - 
was rejected by the parliamentary assembly of Council of 
Europe for the second time in January.

Recent studies show that Switzerland has the greatest number 
of cases of assisted suicide in Europe.

The presence of organisations offering this service, such as 
Dignitas and Exit, is believed to have contributed to this 

A report by the University of Zurich last year found that 
seven out of ten terminally-ill people in Switzerland ended 
their lives through different types of euthanasia.

The House of Representatives rejected the decriminalisation of 
active euthanasia two years ago.

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