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Switzerland Rejects Ban On Assisted Suicide And 'Suicide Tourism'

More than three-fourths of Swiss voters, yesterday, rejected a ban on assisted suicide and a proposed ban on "suicide tourism" that aimed at making it illegal for foreigners to travel to the country in search of a doctor who would help them commit suicide.

World Radio Switzerland reports:

About 200 people commit assisted suicide each year in Zurich, including many foreign visitors. The practice, considered by most Swiss as an humanitarian act, is legal in Switzerland under legislation dating back to 1941, provided certain conditions are met. The aid must be provided by a doctor with no vested interest in the death. Assistance can be provided only in a passive way, such as by providing drugs. Active assistance — helping a person to take or administer a product — is prohibited.

The BBC reports that while a vast majority of voters upheld the 1941 law, the debate is not likely to disappear any time soon:

Polls show voters do want clearer national legislation setting out conditions under which assisted suicide is permitted.

The Swiss government is planning to revise the country's federal laws on assisted suicide.

It has said it is looking to make sure it was used only as a last resort by the terminally ill, and to limit suicide tourism.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.