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In their article ‘Suicide tourism: a pilot study on the Swiss phenomenon,’1 Gauthier et al claim that cases of suicide tourism identified in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, have ‘doubled' in recent years, that such assistance is uniquely available in Switzerland due to laxity in Swiss laws, and that the situation is problematic enough that the European Court of Human Rights ‘recently ruled that Switzerland has to issue regulations for prescribing lethal medication….’ These statements are wrong, misleading and inflammatory. To little surprise, the mass media readily lapped up on the hype-news of ‘doubling’.i The study by Gauthier and colleagues is riddled with methodological, analytical and reporting flaws which strip it of its credibility. What is the background and what are the flaws of the ‘study’ by Gauthier et al?
The method of data collection and analysis by Gauthier et al is not explicitly justified by the authors and leads to serious misrepresentations of the factual situation in Switzerland. The authors analysed only assisted suicides (AS) in which the Zürich Institute of Legal Medicine had been involved and only those that occurred between 2008 and 2012. Cases of non-Swiss residents in which other Institutes of Legal Medicine have been involvedii were not considered. The authors claim to have included 611 cases (‘all foreign residents who had been given assistance in suicide during the period 1 January 2008–31 December 2012’), but Dignitas alone assisted 632 non-Swiss residents during that period.2
Why did the ‘researchers’ choose the years 2008–2012? Had the authors included just two more years, 2006 and 2007, they would have found that the number of assisted suicides decreased from 2006 until 2009, and then increased until 2012 to reach the level of 2006.2 In consequence, the hype-claim of ‘doubling’ is relativised. All research …
Competing interests SL is an employee of DIGNITAS—To live with dignity—To die with dignity.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
↵i As can be seen with a simple web search-machine, using the words “suicide+tourism+doubled”.
↵ii There are 7 such institutes in Switzerland. http://www.sgrm.ch/allgemein/institute.html (accessed 2 Oct 2014).
↵iii Also pointed out by the ECHR in the case Gross v. Switzerland, in paragraph 65.
↵iv The Swiss Criminal Code came into force on 1 Jan 1942.