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Ther Umsch. 2008 Jul;65(7):413-6. doi: 10.1024/0040-5930.65.7.413.

[Medical end-of-life decisions and assisted suicide].

[Article in German]

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Institut für Rechtsmedizin der Universität Zürich.


Medical end-of-life decisions that potentially shorten life (Sterbehilfe) are normally divided into four categories: Passive Sterbehilfe refers to withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging measures, indirect Sterbehilfe refers to the use of agents such as opioids or sedatives to alleviate symptoms of a terminally ill patient, assisted suicide (Suizidbeihilfe or Beihilfe zum Suizid) refers to prescribing and/or supplying a lethal drug in order to help someone to end his own life, and active euthanasia - which is illegal in any circumstances - means a doctor actively ending a patients life. In passive and indirect euthanasia, the will of a competent patient, or the presumed will of an incompetent patient respectively, is crucial. Assisted suicide is not illegal according to the Swiss Penal Code as long as there are no motives of self-interest of the individual assisting, and the individual assisted has decisional capacity. However, for doctors participating in assisted suicide, specific requirements of medical due care have to be met. What this means in the context of assisted suicide has recently been elaborated by the Swiss Federal Court of Justice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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