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Aid-in-Dying: Is Terminal Illness a Prerequisite?

Posted Jun 12 2013 12:15pm
Dr. Philippe Freiburghaus prescribed sodium pentobarbital to an 89-year-old man suffering unbearable pain who had tried to commit suicide.   But Swiss prosecutors said the doctor had “crossed the line” by failing to follow the legal regulations.  “In prescribing this drug he did not respect the ethical directives, namely the presence of an incurable illness and a short life expectancy."

But just a few weeks ago, the European Court for Human Rights held that Swiss law violated the Convention, because it lacked "comprehensive and clear guidelines on whether and under which circumstances . . . someone not suffering from a terminal illness should be granted the ability to acquire a lethal dose of medication."

To be clear, the ECHR said that it is up to Swiss law to determine if a terminal illness is required.  But authorities must make the rules more certain one way or the other.  Perhaps Swiss authorities will develop an alternative safeguard that will permit them to dispense with the "terminal illness" requirement.

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