Suicide tourism

Suicide tourism, or euthanasia tourism, is a term used to describe the practice of potential suicide candidates travelling to a jurisdiction to commit assisted suicide or suicide. In some jurisdictions, assisted suicide is legal.

Status in various countries


An American expatriate who set up websites offering to help people make arrangements to kill themselves in Cambodia shut the sites down in 2005, saying he hoped to avoid problems with the authorities.[1]


Main article: Euthanasia in Mexico

At pet shops across Mexico, there is a drug known as liquid pentobarbital that is used by owners to euthanize pets. When given to humans, the drug can give them a painless death in under one hour. The pet shops across Mexico have such drugs. As a result, tourists from across the globe seeking to terminate their own lives were reported to be flying out to Mexico.[2][3][4]


Critics have claimed that the Dutch initiative for euthanasia will trigger a wave of "euthanasia tourism". However, a clause insisting on a well-established relationship between doctor and patient is designed to prevent this.[5]


Regulations were proposed to limit possibilities of legal suicide assistance for foreigners in Switzerland.[6] The law primarily targeted Dignitas, one of two right-to-die groups in Switzerland assisting foreigners. The Swiss government rejected proposed stricter regulations in 2006, maintaining the status quo[7] as regulated by Paragraph 115 of Swiss Criminal Code.

Although the assisted suicide market is largely German, as of August 2015, approximately 300 British citizens had travelled to Switzerland from the UK to die at one of Dignitas' rented apartments in Zurich. [8] The names of a few of these people are known, though most remain anonymous.[9] By November 2008 the number of British members of Dignitas had risen to 725, a number exceeded only by Swiss and German membership.[10] Given the size and population density of Europe, it is certain that there are Dignitas members in other European countries. Right-wing politicians in Switzerland have repeatedly criticized suicide assistance for foreigners, branding it suicide tourism (Sterbetourismus in German).

In 2007, Dignitas launched an effort to gain legal permission for healthy foreigners, including married couples committed to suicide pacts, to end their lives in Switzerland.[11]

In July 2009, British conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan died together at a suicide clinic outside Zürich "under circumstances of their own choosing." Sir Edward was not terminally ill, but his wife was diagnosed with rapidly developing cancer.[12]

In March 2010, the PBS Frontline TV program in the United States showed a documentary called "The Suicide Tourist" which told the story of Professor Craig Ewert, his family, and Dignitas, and their decision to commit assisted suicide in Switzerland after he was diagnosed and suffering with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).[13]

In a referendum on 15 May 2011, voters in the Canton of Zurich have overwhelmingly rejected calls to ban assisted suicide or to outlaw the practice for non-residents. Out of more than 278,000 ballots cast, the initiative to ban assisted suicide was rejected by 85 per cent of voters and the initiative to outlaw it for foreigners was turned down by 78 per cent.[14][15][16]

United Kingdom

In 2009, the British Parliament said it would consider an amendment to a bill that would allow suicide tourism by not charging people with assisting suicide when they take their loved ones to another nation to kill themselves. Britain has a law banning assisted suicide, but it hasn't been enforced in those cases.[17]

United States

In 1997, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act went into effect.[18] In 2008, Washington passed their law which was then implemented in 2009.[18] Laws may only be implemented by licences physicians based on the individual needs of qualified patients. Patients must meet state requirements to be eligible for euthanasia.[19][20][21]

See also


  1. "Suicide-tourism websites shut down," USA Today (04-11-2005). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  2. Emmott, Robin; Hernández, Magdiel; Bremer, Catherine; Chiacu, Doina (2008-06-03). "Euthanasia tourists snap up pet shop drug in Mexico". Nuevo Laredo, Mexico: Reuters. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  3. Davies, Julie-Anne, "Nitschke DIY kit upsets British", The Australian, April 20, 2009. They asked Dr. Philip Nitschke about it. "As revealed in The Australian last month, Exit members are obtaining Nembutal from an online mail order supplier in Mexico. Others travel to Mexico and smuggle the drug home in their luggage. The kits, which will retail for $50, include a syringe that allows users to extract half a millilitre of the solution. 'Clearly, sterility doesn't matter given that death is the desired outcome,' Dr Nitschke said. 'People want reassurance they've not just bought a bottle of water.'"
  4. "News briefs from home and abroad", The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Year 2009, Volume 23, Number 3. "Australia's Dr. Death, Dr. Philip Nitschke, has been on the road proffering his latest invention, a do-it-yourself kit to test the quality and potency of the barbiturate Nembutal. ... So Nitschke tells the elderly and not-so-elderly that the drug is both available and cheap in Mexico. But not all Mexican vendors are reputable, so his euthanasia test kit is needed to make sure that people have the real thing and the potency is truly deadly. ..." [The Australian, 4/20/09]
  5. Mercy Killing Now Legal in Netherlands
  6. Michael Leidig & Philip Sherwell, "Swiss to crack down on suicide tourism," Telegraph (14 March 2004). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  7. Kein Gesetz gegen Sterbetourismus Neue Zürcher Zeitung
  8. "'One person a fortnight' travels to Dignitas from Britain to end their lives". Guardian. August 15, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  9. "My brother chose to end his suffering". BBC News. 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  10. "More Britons seeking suicide help". BBC News. 2008-11-17. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  11. Jacob M. Appel, "Next: Assisted Suicide for Healthy People," The Huffington Post (16 July 2009). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  12. Lundin, Leigh (2009-08-02). "YOUthanasia". Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  13. "The Suicide Tourist", PBS Frontline, March 2, 2010.
  14. "Zurich votes to keep 'suicide tourism' alive". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2011-05-15.
  15. "Zurich voters keep "suicide tourism" alive," CBS News (15 May 2011). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  16. "Zurich voters keep 'suicide tourism' alive". Fox News. 2011-05-15.
  17. Steven Ertelt, "British Parliament to Consider OKing Suicide Tourism, Pro-Life Groups Opposed," (20 March 2009). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  18. 1 2 "Death with Dignity: the Laws & How to Access Them". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  19. "Oregon". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  20. Compassion & Choices of Washington. "Home - Compassion & Choices of Washington". Compassion & Choices of Washington. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  21. "Vermont Ethics Network". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
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