Expert Views on Medical Involvement in the Swiss Assisted Dying Practice: “We Want to Have Our Cake and Eat It Too”?

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Christina Nyquist, Scott Y. H. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most jurisdictions that allow euthanasia and assisted suicide (AS) regulate it through the medical profession. However, the extent and nature of how medicine should be involved are debated. Swiss AS practice is unusual in that it is managed by lay AS organizations that rely on a law that permits AS when done for nonselfish reasons. Physicians are not mentioned in the law but are usually called upon to prescribe the lethal medications and perform capacity evaluations.

We analyzed in-depth interviews of 23 Swiss AS experts including ethicists, lawyers, medical practitioners, and senior officials of AS organizations for their views on AS.

Although there was agreement on some issues (e.g., need for better end-of-life care), the interviewees’ preferred model for AS, and the nature of preferred medical involvement, varied, which we categorized into five types: preference for AS practice as it occurred prior to lay AS organizations; preference for the current lay model; preference for a modified lay model to increase autonomy protections while limiting medical AS normalization; preference for various types of more medicalized models of AS; and, ambivalence about any specific model of medical involvement. The rationales given for each type of model reflected varying opinions on how medicine’s role would likely impact AS practice and demonstrated the experts’ attitudes toward those impacts.

The dynamics within the Swiss AS regime, as reflected in the varying views of Swiss AS experts, shed light on the dilemmas inherent to medical scope and involvement in AS, which may have implications for debates in other jurisdictions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023 Jul 24

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law (excluding Law and Society)
  • Medical Ethics

Free keywords

  • assisted suicide
  • autonomy
  • dying
  • end-of-life
  • regulation
  • Switzerland


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