Swiss Publish Meaningless Assisted Suicide Guidelines

November 27, 2006

One of the great and terrible jokes about assisted suicide/euthanasia is the old platitude that “guidelines” will protect against abuse. They don’t, of course. They are not even there to effectively constrain assisted suicide. Rather, in my view, they primarily exist to allow people to believe that the killing is under control.

The Swiss National Ethics Advisory Commission has now pursued this strategy by publishing guidelines intended to regulate their legally permissive assisted suicide policy. (It is worth noting that unlike the Netherlands, doctors are not permitted to assist suicide in their professional capacity–which at least makes sense since killing is not a medical procedure.) Among the “guidelines” are:
1. Adults must have mental capacity, meaning, apparently, that they can understand the circumstances that gave rise to their suicidal ideation. “Adults in possession of their mental faculties are generally best able to bear witness to and judge their own situation. They can tell whether their suffering is intolerable.”
2. The desire for suicide must be based on “illness”, which “is to be understood in a broad sense,” for exampling including “suffering arising from a accident or a sever disability.” Note that this doesn’t mean terminal disease, demonstrating once again that assisted suicide/euthanasia is not about “last resort” actions to alleviate suffering in the imminently dying.
3. The desire to die is enduring and consistent and not based on impulse, in the opinion of the “person carrying out the assessment,” which apparently doesn’t even have to be mental health professional. Nor is there even a minimal requirement that the suicidal person be seen by a mental health professional and/or engage in suicide prevention therapy.
4. The desire for suicide has arisen in the absence of external pressure, as if the “assessor” will be able to tell. It is worth noting that a similar Oregon guideline did not protect Kate Cheney.
5. All other options have been considered. What can one say but, yadda, yadda, yadda.
6. Repeated personal contacts between the assistors and the suicidal patient. This is meant to stop suicide tourism. It won’t.

These guidelines don’t have the force of law, and even if they did, they would not be effectively enforced. Moreover, they seek to legitimize the concept of “rational suicide.” As such, they constitute the utter abandonment of suicidal people.