In Switzerland, it is legal to assist suicide for altruistic reasons. Doctors in this country are permitted to support patients for whom a cure is not available and whose suffering is unbearable.
Opponents of assisted suicide fear that over time the threshold could be lowered and vulnerable people could even be forced to bring their life to an end in this way. Researchers led by Matthias Egger at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern have now investigated whether these fears are supported by the data.
The right-to-die organisations Exit Deutsche Schweiz, Exit Suisse Romande and Dignitas provided the Swiss Federal Statistical Office with anonymised data on a total of 1,301 cases of assisted suicide provided by the organisations to Swiss residents between 2003 and 2008. The researchers linked the information to data from the Swiss National Cohort – a cohort study of the Swiss population that is based on anonymised census data. These links produced information including the place of residence of the people concerned, their level of education, whether they lived alone and whether they had children.
The study, which has just been published (*), showed that more women than men (740 women compared with 561 men) die from assisted suicide. The proportion of women is also higher when the fact that there are more older women than older men is taken into account. People living alone and those who are divorced are also more likely to seek an assisted suicide than married and socially integrated persons. Younger people with children seek out suicide assistance less frequently than those who have no children; although the existence of children appears not to offer any protection among older people. “The results indicate that there could well be vulnerable groups,” says Matthias Egger. “Social isolation and loneliness are known to be risk factors for suicide, and this might also be the case for assisted suicide.”
In wealthy residential areas
The study also shows that better-educated people living in urban locations and in wealthy residential areas are more likely to seek help in dying. “These findings are not consistent with the theory that pressure on socially weaker people leads to increased levels of assisted suicide,” says Egger. “On the other hand, educated people who are well-placed financially can of course also feel isolated and lonely.” Educated, wealthy people might also have easier access to assisted suicide, for financial reasons for example.
In 1,093 of the 1,301 cases of assisted suicide, the researchers had additional information from the death certificate on the people who had sought assisted suicide. In almost half of these cases the people concerned had been suffering from cancer. The proportion of people suffering from incurable degenerative diseases of the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was also high.
In around 200 of the 1,300 reported cases, the official death certificate failed to record the fatal illness from which the person concerned had been suffering at the time of assisted suicide. The researchers recommend that a register be created in which all assisted suicides are recorded anonymously. “Such a controversial topic demands careful oversight by the State,” says Egger.(*) Nicole Steck, Christoph Junker, Maud Maessen, Thomas Reisch, Marcel Zwahlen, and Matthias Egger for the Swiss National Cohort (2014). Suicide assisted by Right-to-Die Associations: Population based cohort study. International Journal of Epidemiology online. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyu010
(Available to journalists in PDF format from the SNSF: email@example.com)Contact
Media - Abteilung Kommunikation | idw
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering