Suicide Tourism, Televised

Well, now. Get a good assisted-suicide business up and running in Switzerland, who is so very Switzerland about the whole thing, and then British TV comes along and films one of your clients… and then *everybody* wants to kill themselves. God, posers! Okay, it’s not a trend, but it’s one amazing story — the plastic bags of helium are the real OMG about the whole deal… snip:

…Drawn by Switzerland’s reputation as a trouble-free place for foreigners to end their lives, more than 100 Germans, Britons, French, Americans and others come to this small commuter town just east of Zurich each year to lie down on a bed in an industrial park building and drink a lethal dose of barbiturates.
Now the country’s suicide practices are under the spotlight after British TV last week showed Craig Ewert, a 59-year-old Chicago man with a severe form of motor neuron disease, killing himself in Switzerland two years ago.
Other countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Oregon and Washington in the U.S., have recently passed laws allowing the incurably sick to seek out a doctor who — under tightly regulated circumstances — can hasten their death.
But only Switzerland, in a law dating back to 1942, permits foreigners to come and kill themselves, placing few restrictions on the how, when and why. Doctors have relative freedom to prescribe a veterinary drug for that very purpose
Five minutes after drinking a glass of water laced with sodium pentobarbital, they fall asleep.
Death follows about half an hour later. (…)
… Dignitas says it charges 10,000 Swiss francs ($8,300) for its services, which include taking care of legal formalities and arranging consultations with a doctor willing to prescribe the deadly medicine. The group says it pays its staff salaries and invests any profit in its advocacy and counseling work, which includes suicide prevention efforts.
Other such organizations in Switzerland say they are cheaper and do not charge the patient directly, relying instead on membership fees and donations.
“We need to ensure that there’s no economic incentive for these organizations to encourage people to commit suicide,” says Kiefer.
A small religious party is campaigning to ban groups from charging for their services — an idea which the pugnacious Minelli calls the product of “sick brains.”
Officials in the canton of Zurich threatened to restrict their activities by making doctors see each patient more than once, and by limiting the supply of sodium pentobarbital. So some groups hoarded the drug and Dignitas turned to alternative methods, coming under scrutiny this spring after it was reported they were suffocating people with plastic bags and helium.
The bag is placed over the head of a person who then opens a flow of helium, falls into a coma and dies “in 99.9 percent of cases,” according to Derek Humphry, a British author whose suicide manual “Final Exit” has sold at least a million copies. (…read more,

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