A Swiss organisation that helps defend peoples right to refuse medical assistance and assists people in taking their own lives has reported a higher number of applications than usual over the last few months.
The organisation, Exit, says it is receiving 60-100 new membership requests a day from people who wish to make ‘living wills’ – documents that stipulate how they should be treated in the event that they are gravely ill and unable to communicate their wishes.
In previous years the number of applications usually slowed down over the European summer period, July-August, as many tend to be away then on holiday, says Bernard Sutter, Exit’s vice president.
“It’s an indication that more people than ever want to join,” says Sutter.
He expects the number of applications to Exit to rise above 100 per working day once the summer is over. this is a marked difference to 18 months ago when the group was receiving 30-60 applications a day on average.
So why the sudden spike in applications?
Exit, which was founded in 1982, believes the increase can be attributed to a growing acceptance among a new generation of medical and health providers that people should be able to determine the course of their lives.
The generation now turning 40, 50 or 60 years old, which is the typical age that a person joins Exit is used to making their own decisions,” he said.
“People want to be sure that even if they are unconscious, even if they have dementia, they will be treated according to their wishes.”
Exit’s current membership is around 75,000 and it had assisted 459 people die by assisted suicide using lethal drugs last year – 100 more than the previous year.
The practice has been legal in Switzerland since 1942, as long as it is performed by someone with no direct interest in the death.
In May this year, Exit members voted in favour of extending its services to elderly people who are not terminally ill, but may suffer from psychological or physical problems in old age.
Critics of assisted suicide believe that the act may lead those that are vulnerable to take their own lives under pressure from family and heirs or out of fear that they are a burden.
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