On Friday, the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences presented an up-date on guidelines relating to end of life and death. The last version was issued in 2004 in this country where assisted suicide is legal and sharply rising (see Assisted suicide rising sharply in Switzerland). The Academy wanted to respond to the “support needed” by doctors “in discussions with patients and their relatives”, advising them “to broach the end-of-life subject earlier”. With regard to assisted suicide, each doctor is free to choose whether or not to practice and conditions for implementing this procedure have been clearly defined: “for instance, from now on, the patient’s symptoms and/or functional limitations must cause him/her intolerable suffering”. Whereas, in the past, “each doctor proceeded differently”, the new guidelines are now more detailed.
Finally, some of these directives focus on sedation, which is defined as the administration of “medicinal products that numb the central nervous system in an attempt to reduce the onset of pain or respiratory distress. The dose can be increased, culminating in a person’s death”. Authorised to date “once the dying process has already started”, sedation can now be administered to patients “suffering from an incurable disease without them having to be at death’s door”.
The legislation has been reviewed. It will come into force “once the answers to this procedure have been discussed”.