Friday, February 28, 2014

Assisted Suicide for the healthy in Switzerland.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director/International Chair Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Daily Mail reported last week that Oriella Cazzanello, 85, travelled to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Basel, Switzerland, where she paid €10,000 for an assisted suicide because was unhappy about losing her looks.

The woman, who was in good mental and physical health, left her home in Arzignano, near Vicenza in northern Italy, without telling her relatives where she was going.

Her family, who had reported her to the police as missing, only learnt of her death after they received her ashes and death certificate from the clinic.

News reports of the death of Oriella Cassanello came shortly after a study was released that examined the officially reported assisted suicide deaths at the three suicide clinics in Switzerland.

An article published the previous day in the Daily Mail reported reported on a study based on data from 1301 assisted suicide deaths that was analysed by researchers at the University of Bern and published in the Journal of Epidemiology.

The study found that: 
Women, highly educated, divorced and rich people are more likely to die from assisted suicide, new research has revealed and around 16 per cent of death certificates did not register an underlying cause. In other words, they had no underlying illness. 
A previous study of suicides by two right-to-die organizations showed that 25 per cent of those assisted had no fatal illness, instead citing 'weariness of life' as a factor.
The study indicated that:
In the age group, 25-64 years the majority had cancer (57 per cent), followed by diseases of the nervous system (21 per cent).

Eleven people had a mood disorder listed as the first underlying cause, and three had another mental or behavioural disorder. 
In the 65-94 years age group, cancer was again the most common underlying cause (41 per cent), followed by circulatory (15 per cent) and diseases of the nervous system (11 per cent).

Thirty people had a mood disorder, and six had another mental or behavioural disorder.
The Daily Mail article stated:
Lead researcher Professor Matthias Egger said: 'The higher rates among the better educated and those living in neighbourhoods of higher socio-economic standing does not support the 'slippery slope' argument but might reflect inequities in access to assisted suicide.

On the other hand, we found a higher rate among people living alone and the divorced. Social isolation and loneliness are well known risk factors for suicide and our results suggest that they may also play a role in assisted suicide.
Mrs Cazzanello died by assisted suicide because she was ‘weighed down by ageing and the inevitable loss of the looks of which she was proud’ the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The well-to-do pensioner was also suffering from loneliness.

Pietro D'Amico
The Dignitas suicide clinic in Basel Switzerland also assisted the suicide death of Pietro D’Amico, a 62-year-old magistrate from Calabria in southern Italy, in April, 2013 after D'Amico received a wrong diagnosis.

Society should be concerned by the number of assisted deaths of people who are not terminally ill and not even listing a reason to die. Once suicide is an answer to one social problem then it also becomes the answer to other social problems. In this case, loneliness is the primary cause for mnay of these deaths.

I am concerned about the accuracy of the data. The sole source of information are the Swiss suicide clinics who oppose any regulation for assisted suicide. Studies need to be done by third parties who interview people before they die by assisted suicide and interviewing their family members.

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