Zurich voters are just like us

Baroness Murphy

The Swiss canton population of Zurich yesterday voted overwhelmingly to retain their legal framework on assisted dying. 87% of the voters wanted to retain assisted suicide (legal since 1941 without any ‘slippery slope’ having been induced) and the vast majority wanted to retain the practise of offering a service to terminally ill people from abroad without adding a residency qualification. We know this is a broadly similar proportion of the UK population who support the need to change the law to allow that small number of terminally ill people who wish it to avail themselves of an assisted death at a time of their choosing. The Swiss law is not as well framed to include safeguards as I would wish but we could do better, coming to it later. The pity is that we allow people to travel abroad to die when most of these individuals would so much prefer to die at home with family and friends around them.

11 comments for “Zurich voters are just like us

  1. MilesJSD
    16/05/2011 at 3:38 pm

    Should euthanasia legislation also include, after “terminally-ill”, “and undergoing unnecessary/excessive/intolerable/irremediable suffering” ?


  2. maude elwes
    16/05/2011 at 4:18 pm

    Now wouldn’t it be heart warming if the British public had the opportunity to give their point of view akin to the Swiss. Referendum. Now that is democracy in full swing.

    No confusion for government, they simply cannot be out of touch with the people. Ever.


    How can we sign up for that here?

    The Swiss can call for a referendum should they be unhappy with the way government is moving.

  3. Gareth Howell
    16/05/2011 at 5:42 pm

    I often think of the “conscience of the medical profession” Dr De’ath who had his surgery beneath the Coop building HQ in Manchester, was a radical Tory,(by the way) and languished and died in prison after being accused of so many dastardly crimes against the aged.

    I wonder whether his apparent wickedness would have been ameliorated had he been a Swiss working in Switzerland, or the law had been as the learnéd prof thinks perhaps it should be in the UK.

    I am against any change.

    There is far too much tacit killing in the NHS as it is.

    I really should not say anything. This is surely the eminent psychiatrist’s area of profound expertise, and it is so very difficult to please at that time of life.

    It does not only apply to the old; that may be where the difficulty in formulating a bill/act would lie.

    A short anecdote of Joseph Conrad relates how he went to his club (Travellers?)and caught up on all the news. How some had lost all their money, and others had lost all their money AND their lives. Deliberate accidents perhaps.

    That could happen on the operating table too.

  4. Dave H
    16/05/2011 at 7:28 pm

    A lateral view of things suggests that having the requirement to travel does add an extra layer of safeguard, although it undoubtedly deters some who can’t face the travel or are unable to afford it.

  5. Gareth Howell
    17/05/2011 at 7:37 am

    Dave H is right. If they want it badly enough then let them travel to get it; whether it is death or big bosoms.

    If the state involves itself with such things, any further than it does already, there is no knowing where it would end.

    Death for everybody at 90 or 100, by law?

    The whole point about changes in the law on cocaine or sodomy, to legalize them in both cases, is to put the responsibility for the decision making firmly in the court of the
    user or pleasure(?) seeker, on an entirely private basis, no National organization involved at all.

    There is a great deal of persuasion, by duress, done in NHs hospitals by surgeons to achieve what they want to achieve, for their own purposes, and not for that of the patient at all.

    For a start the CONTRACT (sorry!) that the patient signs with the NHs for an operation is a catch all contract which is nearly always totally inadequate.

    If the patient had to sign a detailed contract drawn up by his own solicitors for the purpose it would be slightly more acceptable.

    In the private sector that is the case; the patient provides the contract and the surgeon has to decide whether he can accept the terms of the contract, or not.

    That may well be why the Swiss are able to allow it, that their contracts for foreigners seeking “help” are private and detailed in their design.

    This might be viable in the UK, but the state does not generally legislate for things which are not their concern, ie not their own enterprise, the NHS.

    So the low morals of the NHs would get even lower, in legislating for it, and killing wold become the order of the day and not the great exception to it.

    No! No! No! (Cardinal No was a Roman Catholic Cardinal who lived until he was 100) No! No! No!

    Consideration of Contract is the answer to
    this question and the NHS never allows anybody to draw up their own contract. It is a “take it or leave it” system for nearly all patients.

    Then the syringe goes in, and in the case of euthanasia it only has to go in once.

    • MilesJSD
      17/05/2011 at 12:18 pm

      Double luck to us:

      1. We are helped into a better-hereafter by the judicious humankind-interest, advocated and implemented by fully-experienced and qualified intermediaries, and by thoroughly-vetted and disinterested professionals and governances.

      2. Our memos and autobiographical-bits would remain accessible to the World-Public; much of it through The Lords of the Blog alone.


      • maude elwes
        18/05/2011 at 9:52 am

        Legal euthanasia in this country would end up with the same dirty picture as abortion. Except the other end of the spectrum. Why not kill them years before they wear out, as it will be in our interests won’t it. They are all such a drain on our resources.

  6. 17/05/2011 at 1:20 pm

    I don’t consider this to be a “right to die” though, more a “right to life”.

    I have a long-term illness that nearly killed me a few years ago, and the key lesson I took from that experience is that when my illness eventually resumes its destructive process I will not want to die in a hospital.

    However, I would then be faced with a choice between holding on as long as possible – at the risk of being unable to travel on my own to Switzerland and being stuck in the UK – or dying earlier than necessary to avoid that risk.

    I don’t particularly want to die, but I really don’t want to die earlier than I need to just because The State says I have to.

  7. Gareth Howell
    17/05/2011 at 6:48 pm

    really don’t want to die earlier than I need to just because The State says I have to.

    There you have it. Compelled under great duress to agree to it, as well!!! He signed! He signed! (any way you’re dead so there won’t be that much argument)

    And if you went to a private hospital at £400 per day for a room alone?

    The point is the different methods of contract/agreementand the apparent ‘simplicity’ of the NHS one.

    You only have to touch the pen with your hand for it to be taken as evidence that you have agreed….. to your own death. Contract signed and sealed.

    How many people in that position would know that?

  8. maude elwes
    17/05/2011 at 7:42 pm

    The main thrust of government is dealing in ‘death’ and ‘taxes.’

  9. Twm O'r Nant
    18/05/2011 at 6:50 pm

    It is known as signing one’s own death warrant, in the aged.

    It is the effect on the infirm of younger age that needs to be examined most carefully; those for example who have a motorbike accident, and are known as “organ donors on wheels”.

    The duress involved in their signing up would
    be impossible to resist.

    I broke my leg on a m’bike and a woman came up to me in A+E, felt my kidney region and wanted to know whether I was an organ donor, and whether I would sign up to it. NO! No! No!

    Some people are ‘kind’, and give their organs away, and their lives. Even adopted by the Protestant CofE (church of england) as an act of charity and kindness.

    Corporate insanity more like!

    Where would we be with a change in the law?

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