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The Swiss say ‘Yes’ to assisted suicide
Zurich has always been famous for its banking. But now it's famous for something else: helping people to end their lives. About 200 people commit assisted suicide each year in Zurich, including many foreigners, particularly from Germany, France and the UK. These are people who are so unhappy - whether through emotional or physical pain - that they wish to bring their life to an end. To help someone commit suicide is illegal in most countries; not in Switzerland. Not all Swiss are happy about it. Some groups, concerned about the so-called 'suicide tourism', have attempted to limit the practice to those resident in the country. And demanded a longer time for 'preparation'. At present, Zurich's Dignitas clinic offers something very immediate. Clients see a doctor and are helped to die all in the same day. Over 1000 people have so far used this clinic to end their life. But plans to limit assisted dying to Swiss residents have just been rejected at the polls. Some 85% of voters opposed a ban on assisted suicide and 78% opposed outlawing it for foreigners. Bernhard Sutter, vice-president of Zurich-based Exit organisation, which assists Swiss people to die, said the result showed Swiss voters believed in 'self-determination at the end of life'. Switzerland is not the only country to allow assisted death. In the Netherlands, doctor-assisted suicide was legalised in 2002. This change followed two decades when the practice was known to be common but remained unregulated. Now, in a population of 17 million, about 2,300 Dutch people annually opt to die by assisted suicide. Wrong - or a right? Some call it 'assisted suicide'. Others prefer 'assisted dying', 'mercy killing' or 'death with dignity'. Others still call it 'self-murder'. Each phrase reflects a different take on this controversial practice. Many religions, such as Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam declare life to be sacred and believe all suicide is wrong. But the recent Swiss vote confirms their belief that everyone has the right to die when, where and how they wish without reference to other people's beliefs.