Voters in the Swiss city of Zurich have voted overwhelmingly against proposals to ban assisted suicide and so-called “suicide tourism” in a referendum on Sunday.
Some 85 percent of the 278,000 votes cast were against proposals to ban assisted suicide, while 78 percent opposed outlawing the practice for foreigners.
Zurich is home to two assisted suicide organizations, Dignitas and Exit. While Exit only helps permanent residents in Switzerland, many of those coming to Switzerland to use the services of Dignitas come from other parts of Europe where assisted suicide is outlawed, turning the Swiss city into a prime destination for “suicide tourism.”
The Evangelical People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union had sought to tighten up Switzerland’s relaxed suicide laws by requiring anyone wanting to commit assisted suicide in Zurich to live in the city for at least a year beforehand.
Switzerland’s two main parties, the Swiss People’s Party and the Social Democrats opposed the proposals.
It has been legal since 1941 for non-physicians to assist in a suicide where they have no vested interest in the death.
An estimated 200 people commit assisted suicide in Zurich every year, among them, many non-Swiss. Dignitas says it has helped 150 Britons to die at its clinic.
The U.K.-based pro-euthanasia campaign group Dignity in Dying called the Zurich vote a “brave decision” and said the result would “come as a relief” to many Britons wanting the choice of an assisted death if they found themselves suffering at the end of their lives.
The debate is far from over, however, as the government has promised to review the country’s federal laws on assisted suicide laws.
Care Not Killing, an alliance of 40 pro-life organizations also based in the U.K., reacted with disappointment to the vote.
Dr. Peter Saunders said, “We are disappointed that voters in Zurich appear to have followed the call of the two major political parties to support the status quo in [the] referendum on assisted suicide after an earlier poll showed that two thirds of Swiss people were concerned about suicide tourism.
"However, we are pleased that the Swiss government is still planning to revise the country's federal laws on assisted suicide next year."
In the U.S., physician-assisted suicide is legal in the states of Oregon, Montana and Washington.