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Assisted suicide in Switzerland 1998-2009 Almost 300 cases of assisted suicide in 2009

Neuchâtel, 27.03.2012 (FSO) - The Federal Statistical Office (FSO) is presenting statistical results on assisted suicide for the first time. These cover the period from 1998 to 2009. During this period the number of Swiss residents who died as a result of assisted suicide rose steadily. In 2009, the number was nearly 300, which corresponds to 4.8 per 1000 deaths. There are no corresponding data for the period prior to 1998.

Sex and age

In 90% of recorded cases, the persons who resorted to assisted suicide were aged 55 or over. Only 1% were younger than 35. The age distribution is similar for men and women. From age 55, a markedly higher proportion of women choose to seek assisted suicide

Underlying diseases

Assisted suicide is resorted to when life no longer appears worth living for the person concerned, in particular due to a serious physical illness. In 44% of cases, cancer was reported as the underlying disease. In 14% of cases a neurodegenerative disease was the decisive factor, in 9% a cardiovascular disease and in 6% a musculoskeletal disorder. Depression was reported in 3% of cases and dementia in 0.3%.

Canton of residence

In the 12 years since 1998, at least one person in each canton has resorted to assisted suicide. The canton of Zurich accounted for the largest share, both in absolute and relative numbers: 700 persons, or 5.6 per 1000 deaths, between 1998 and 2009. In the canton of Geneva 100, or 4.4 per 1000 deaths, were reported. The cantons of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Vaud, Basel-Stadt und Schaffhausen are also above the Swiss average of 2.8 per 1000 deaths.

International comparison

There are few opportunities for international comparison, as national legislation on assisted suicide differs widely, ranging from prohibition to liberal solutions, and there are no international standards on the collection of assisted suicide data. Well documented data are only available from Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium the number of reported cases of active euthanasia and assisted suicide has risen steadily since the introduction of the Belgian Euthanasia Act in 2002 and stood at 7.9 per 1000 deaths in 2009. On the other hand, in the Netherlands, where active euthanasia and assisted suicide also have to be reported, only 2.3 per 1000 deaths were reported in 2010.


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