The suicide tourist trap
Press release issued: 31 July 2009
The international media report that citizens from across the world are travelling or seeking to travel to Switzerland, where they hope to be helped to die. But this “suicide tourism” presents distinctive ethical, legal and practical challenges.
In a paper published online in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Dr Richard Huxtable from the University of Bristol explores three issues associated with this phenomenon:
- how to define 'suicide tourism' and 'assisted suicide tourism'— where the suicidal individual is helped to travel to take up the option of assisted dying;
- the legality of assisted suicide tourism, particularly in the English legal system where there has been considerable recent activity;
- and the ethical dimensions of the practice.
He argues that the suicide tourist—and specifically any accomplice thereof—risks springing a legal trap, but that there is good reason to prefer a more tolerant policy, premised on compromise and ethical pluralism.
Richard Huxtable is Deputy Director of the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at the University of Bristol. His primary research is in the areas of end-of-life decision-making and surgical ethics, and he has published widely in medical, legal and bioethical journals, in addition to authoring the book Euthanasia, Ethics and the Law: From Conflict to Compromise (2007, Routledge-Cavendish).