Suicide tourism

Suicide tourism, or euthanasia tourism, is the practice of potential suicide candidates travelling to a jurisdiction to commit suicide or assisted suicide which is legal in some jurisdictions, or the practice of travelling to a jurisdiction in order to obtain drugs that can aid in to process of ending one's own life.

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]


A drug known as liquid pentobarbital, which is used by owners to euthanize pets, can give a person a painless death in under one hour. Due to the drug's availability at pet shops, tourists seeking to end their lives were reported to be flying from around the world to Mexico.[2][3][4]


Critics have claimed that the Dutch initiative for euthanasia will trigger a wave of "euthanasia tourism".[citation needed] 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, the sole organization offering assisted suicide to non-resident foreign nationals. The Swiss government rejected proposed stricter regulations in 2006, maintaining the status quo[7] as regulated by Paragraph 115 of Swiss Criminal Code.

As of 2008, 60% of all suicides assisted by the organisation Dignitas had been Germans, and between 1998 and 2018 around 1,250 German citizens (almost three times the number of any other nationality) travelled to Dignitas in Zürich, for an assisted suicide. During the same period over 400 British citizens also opted to end their life at the same clinic.[8][9][10][11] The names of a few of these people are known, though most remain anonymous.[12] By November 2008, the number of British members of Dignitas had risen to 725, a number exceeded only by Swiss and German membership.[13] 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 January 2006, British doctor Anne Turner took her own life in a Zürich clinic having developed an incurable degenerative disease. Her story was reported by the BBC at the time with a film crew travelling to Zürich . Whilst later, in 2009, her story was made into a TV film A Short Stay in Switzerland starring Julie Walters.

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.[14]

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.[15]

On March 2, 2010, 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).[16]

In a referendum on 15 May 2011, voters in the Canton of Zürich 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% of voters and the initiative to outlaw it for foreigners was turned down by 78%.[17][18][19]

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 has not been enforced in those cases.[20]

United States

In 1997, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act went into effect.[21] In 2008, Washington state passed their law which was then implemented in 2009.[21] Laws may only be implemented by licensed physicians based on the individual needs of qualified patients. Patients must meet state requirements to be eligible for euthanasia.[22][23][24]

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" Archived 2009-08-08 at the Wayback Machine, 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 Archived 2009-07-20 at the Wayback Machine Neue Zürcher Zeitung
  8. "Statistiken".
  9. Hurst, Samia A; Mauron, Alex (1 February 2003). "Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland: allowing a role for non-physicians". BMJ. 326 (7383): 271–273. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7383.271. PMC 1125125. PMID 12560284.
  10. Wenn Sie das trinken, gibt es kein Zurück Retrieved April 12, 2008
  11. "'One person a fortnight' travels to Dignitas from Britain to end their lives". Guardian. August 15, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  12. "My brother chose to end his suffering". BBC News. 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  13. "More Britons seeking suicide help". BBC News. 2008-11-17. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  14. Jacob M. Appel, "Next: Assisted Suicide for Healthy People," The Huffington Post (16 July 2009). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  15. Lundin, Leigh (2009-08-02). "YOUthanasia". Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  16. "The Suicide Tourist", PBS Frontline, March 2, 2010.
  17. "Zurich votes to keep 'suicide tourism' alive". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2011-05-15.
  18. "Zurich voters keep "suicide tourism" alive," CBS News (15 May 2011). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  19. "Zurich voters keep 'suicide tourism' alive". Fox News. 2011-05-15.
  20. Steven Ertelt, "British Parliament to Consider OKing Suicide Tourism, Pro-Life Groups Opposed," (20 March 2009). Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  21. "Death with Dignity: the Laws & How to Access Them". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  22. "Oregon". Retrieved 8 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  23. Compassion & Choices of Washington. "Home - Compassion & Choices of Washington". Compassion & Choices of Washington. Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  24. "Physician Assisted Death (PAD)". Vermont Ethics Network. Retrieved 8 October 2015.