Switzerland: some markers on assistance and incitement with suicide

Publié le 30 Apr, 2011

On 15th May 2011, the inhabitants of the canton of Zurich have been invited to vote, within the framework of a popular consultation on the assistance to suicide and the “tourism of death“.

In Switzerland, the incitement and the assistance to suicide are authorised by the article 115 of the Criminal Code provided that they do not fall into an “egoist motive“. A surprising provision from which the associations Dignitas and Exit knew how to profit to install their “business” of “the assistance to suicide“: since its creation, Dignitas thus “helped” 1,138 people of whom 76% came from abroad. In 2010, the association Exit has achieved 257 assisted suicides of Swiss citizens …everything for a fee.

Despite practices even more outside the remit of law, Zurich citizens rejected both initiatives which were proposed to regulate more strictly the activities of these associations.

On this controversial concerns, the book by Michel Salamolard called L’incitation et l’aide au suicide (1), gives precious criteria.


Dignity, freedom, compassion


The legalisation of the assisted suicide is claimed – in Switzerland as everywhere else in Europe – in the name of humanist and universal values: human dignity, individual freedom and active compassion. So many reasons based on semantic and intellectual abuses.
Indeed, the dignity of the human person is inalienable and nothing could remove it from it. Yet, blinded by the distress, the person who commits suicide, far from acting in conformity with her/his dignity, recognises implicitly that human dignity is not unconditional or absolute, but depends on the personal opinion of her/his own life. On the other hand, it is lucidly and objectively that the persons who assist suicide deny the human dignity.
Claiming an individual freedom as a basis of a “right to assisted suicide” is also a confusion. Indeed, the freedom and the right do not consist in concretely being able to do something but to be able to choose among several goods. Whatever the capacity of the discernment of the suicide people, her/his decision is never free because it is never a real choice: she/he wants to commit suicide because she/he has the impression not to have other choice to preserve her/his dignity.

Finally the assistance to suicide cannot invoke the compassion to be justified. Indeed, a good intention alone cannot fulfil the kindness of the given assistance. It is the act to which we decide to give assistance which determines if these is good or not. Thus the assistance to suicide cannot “be treated as an assistance among others, without considering the act it makes possible, the suicide, in other words the negation of the person.




In the cases of distress like incurable diseases or end of life, only the palliative care, delivered with love and respect, fully honour the human dignity, concludes the author who reminds that faced with the desire of death, the only fair and inclusive reaction is that which seeks to support the life and the taste for life by all the possible and honest means.  


1- M. Salamolard, L’incitation et l’aide au suicide, éd. Saint Augustin, coll. « Aire de famille », août 2010


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