The controversy over euthanasia has recently re-entered the realm of public discussion.
In mid-April, the Dutch government confirmed that it was expanding the current euthanasia law to cover terminally ill children under the age of 12, with new rules due to be introduced later this year. According to the current law in the Netherlands, euthanasia is only applicable to babies under 1 year old and children over 12 years old. In 2002, this country became the first country in the world to legally practice euthanasia under strict conditions.
By then, this new regulation will fully break through the age limit. The Dutch government says it can help 5 to 10 terminally ill and suffering children end their suffering every year.
In most countries, euthanasia is not an option, and performing euthanasia on yourself or others is considered a crime. Only a small number of countries or regions such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland allow euthanasia under strictly restricted conditions.
Regarding the ethics, law and business behind euthanasia, where are the boundaries?
Finishing point: Switzerland
In countries where euthanasia is legal, basically only nationals are eligible to apply, Switzerland is an exception.
Switzerland is not only one of the first countries in the world to legally implement euthanasia, but the system is not limited to Swiss nationals.
Every year hundreds of people seek euthanasia in Switzerland, a large number of whom are foreigners who are not allowed to die in their country. There are also internationally renowned figures such as botanist David Goodall and director Jean-Luc Godard who have died of euthanasia in Switzerland.
As a result, Switzerland was once cast in the shadow of a “suicide tourist resort”.
The French film “Everything Goes Well” released in 2021 is adapted from the novel of the same name by Emmanuelle Bernin, telling the story of an elderly French man who went to Switzerland to undergo euthanasia with the assistance of his daughter.
The old man Andre, played by André Dussollier, felt that his health was not as good as before after a stroke, so he asked his daughter to apply for euthanasia for him. The daughter Emmanuel played by Sophie Marceau was severely disciplined by her father since she was a child, and she also had to bear the pain of her father abandoning the whole family because she fell in love with another man.
The repressed patricide impulse and her father’s order to “end my life” were intertwined in Emmanuelle’s heart, which made her fall into a dilemma—whether the euthanasia of her father was out of hatred for her father, or was it because of her hatred for her father? Love?
In addition to the inner confusion, there are many difficulties in trying to get my father to die in Switzerland. Difficulties include not only his father’s waywardness, his father’s ex-boyfriend’s troubles, but also the French law. Not only is euthanasia a crime in France, but sending loved ones to Switzerland for euthanasia may also violate the law. Sister Emmanuelle and her father were also arrested by the police because of being informed, and they managed to escape.
When Emmanuel finally sent his father to the ambulance to Switzerland, all the love and hatred between father and daughter seemed to be dissolved in the “everything is going well” when they said goodbye.
In reality, many people like André seek euthanasia in Switzerland every year, and the number is increasing every year.
In 2022, more than 17,000 people will be members of the euthanasia organization “Liberation” – the oldest and largest assisted suicide organization in Switzerland. At present, the organization has more than 150,000 members, setting a record for the number of people established more than 40 years ago. According to this organization that provides euthanasia services for foreigners, 1,125 patients will die by assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2022, and the figures for 2021 and 2020 will be 973 and 913, respectively. Among them, the number of people suffering from advanced cancer is the largest, accounting for 37% of the total.
A 2015 study found that 66 French people traveled to Switzerland to seek euthanasia over a five-year period.
On May 8, 2018, botanist David Goodall arrived in Switzerland and was euthanized two days later
On September 13, 2022, the famous French director Jean-Luc Godard performed euthanasia in Switzerland
The legalization of euthanasia has always been the focus of controversy in Europe. Since not all countries allow euthanasia, cross-border euthanasia is extremely common.
In December 2022, French President Macron also opened a citizens’ meeting on euthanasia, which will be held every weekend until the end of March this year. The ultimate aim of the meeting is to develop an updated consensus on attitudes towards the end of life and to legislate by the end of this year.
One of the key events that contributed to this national debate in France was the death of “New Wave” director Jean-Luc Godard, who had dual citizenship of France and Switzerland, and ended in euthanasia at his Swiss home on September 13 last year. My 92-year-old sick body. On the same day, President Macron announced that he would organize a debate with 150 citizens to discuss measures to expand end-of-life options.
But until France finally legislates to legalize euthanasia, Switzerland will remain the place of choice for euthanasia for the French. While exact figures are not yet available, a 2015 study found that 66 French people traveled to Switzerland to seek euthanasia over a five-year period.
People protest against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Paris, France, April 4, 2023
Godard’s Swiss nationality is obviously an “advantage” over other Frenchmen. As early as 2014, Godard revealed at the Cannes Film Festival that he wanted euthanasia. He explained on the TV show: “I will not live at all costs. If I am too sick, I don’t want to be dragged into a wheelchair, not at all.” Also last year, aged
86 The famous French actor Alain Delon was misrepresented as wanting to accept euthanasia, and the fact that he lived in Switzerland was interpreted by the media as “strengthening his confidence in euthanasia”.
In Switzerland, Article 115 of the Penal Code legalized euthanasia in 1937. Article 115 of the Criminal Code stipulates that assisted suicide can only be considered a crime if the motive is for self-interest. However, the method of assistance is limited to passive rather than active, that is to say, it can only be euthanized by removing the patient’s life support system or stopping the patient from taking medicine, but not by injection. In addition, the law also restricts euthanasia to be performed by persons other than physicians.
It is not easy for foreigners to apply for euthanasia in Switzerland, which requires lengthy procedures and assessments.
Applicants must first register and pay a fee to become a member of the euthanasia organization, and submit detailed personal information, including a biography, application, disease problems, etc., and explain why they want to end their lives. After the organization in charge of the treatment passes the review, a professional doctor will make a diagnosis to confirm whether the applicant meets the standards for euthanasia.
After evaluation, only disabled persons who suffer from serious illness and have difficulties in daily life, or patients who have suffered from long-term pain, are eligible for euthanasia. Euthanasia organizations must confirm that applicants have made a deliberate decision based on sound judgment and not just a whim.
Every link in the entire cumbersome and lengthy process is necessary, and if it is omitted, the person who assists suicide may face jail time. In 2016, Plessig, the head of the euthanasia group Life Cycle, was charged with murder and violating the Security Products Act for helping a mentally ill patient end his life without obtaining expert advice. In 2021, she was partially acquitted at the second trial. Both Plessig and the Attorney General’s Office appealed. The case remains unresolved until now.
Although the euthanasia regulations formulated in Switzerland are strict and cumbersome, the Swiss Medical Association (FMH) further clarified the “Assisted Suicide Regulations” in 2022, which no longer allows healthy people to provide assisted suicide. Although this regulation is not legally binding, doctors who violate it will be punished by the Swiss Medical Association and may even have their medical license revoked.
Euthanasia has become a cash cow
At the end of the 20th century, a number of euthanasia organizations were established in Switzerland, including the five organizations of “Dignity”, “Liberation”, “Spiritual Immortality”, “Foreign International” and “Life Cycle”. “Dignity” and “Liberation” are the two biggest. “Liberation” only serves Swiss nationals, while “Dignity”, “Life Cycle” and “Former International” serve foreigners. Fu Daren, the former host of Taiwan TV Company in China, suffered from pancreatic cancer in his later years, so he sought help from the “Dignity” organization. He is the first Chinese to end his life in this way.
In February 2019, Fu Daren’s family released a documentary about his euthanasia in Switzerland in June 2018. In the documentary, the euthanasia organization prepares two cups of medicine, one with antiemetics and the other with poison. The applicant needs to drink the antiemetic first to prevent the poison from being vomited out. At the same time, the applicant can reconfirm the euthanasia wish, because the applicant can still return after drinking the antiemetic.
Plessig, president of the euthanasia organization Life Cycle
In June 2018, Fu Daren, the former host of China Taiwan TV Company, performed euthanasia in Switzerland
Surrounded by his family, Fu Daren drank the poison in one gulp, then fell asleep in his son’s arms, gradually losing his breathing and heartbeat. His son Fu Junhao recalled: “At that moment, it was very peaceful, as peaceful as my father just fell asleep. Everyone didn’t realize that he was really gone. It was also this moment. We really let go and felt that this was the best way for my father. .”
Fu Daren’s documentary and his son’s narration paint an ideal picture of euthanasia. But behind this ideal picture is a huge expense that is prohibitive for ordinary people: for this euthanasia, Fu Daren spent all his life savings of NT$3 million (about 600,000 yuan)—this is not the highest expense.
In fact, applying for euthanasia in Switzerland costs money in all aspects. The high membership fees of euthanasia organizations scare away many people. The “Dignity” organization charges members with a minimum annual fee of 80 Swiss francs (about 550 yuan), and the annual fee of “Liberation” is 45 Swiss francs (about 300 yuan). Fees for assisted euthanasia are generally calculated based on the time and labor consumed in the entire process.
The UK-based Movement for Dignity in Death estimated in 2022 that the cost of assisted suicide per person in Switzerland was between £6,500 (about 56,000 yuan) and £15,000 (about 130,000 yuan), The average cost is 10,000 pounds (about 87,000 yuan).
However, euthanasia organizations still have some flexibility in charging fees. The organization will exempt some members with poor economic conditions from the fees as appropriate, and let members with good economic conditions provide a little more fees, trying to make the operation mode appear more “humane”. A rich man from Germany was once charged more than 200,000 US dollars. The euthanasia organization’s opaque finances and methods of charging fees have also attracted a lot of criticism. This reinforces the stereotype of Switzerland as a “death tourist destination”.
Although euthanasia was originally intended to establish the right of patients with no medical treatment to choose to die, the right has become a business in Switzerland.