16 May 2011

Swiss city votes to keep assisted suicide

7:56 am on 16 May 2011

Voters in the Swiss city of Zurich have overwhelmingly rejected proposals to ban assisted suicide and to outlaw it for foreigners.

About 200 people commit assisted suicide each year in Zurich, including many citizens from Germany, France and other nations where the practice remains illegal, the BBC reports.

Some 85% of the 278,000 votes cast opposed the ban on the practice and 78% opposed outlawing it for foreigners, Zurich authorities said.

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1941 if performed by a non-physician 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.

While opinion polls indicated that most Swiss were in favour of assisted suicide, they had also suggested that many were against what has become known as suicide tourism.

In the Netherlands, doctor-assisted suicide was legalised in 2002, the BBC says.