Assisted suicide: developments over the last 30 years


As early as in 1918, the Swiss Federal Council commented that aiding suicide was not a crime if the reason was not selfish. Twenty-four years later, this decision was anchored in the Swiss penal code in Article 115; another 40 years later, the first organisations offering suicide assistance were founded.

Project description (completed research project)

In the last 10 years alone, the number of persons who died by assisted suicide (AS) tripled. This number is likely to continue to increase, but exact data on this development is lacking. To gain an understanding of AS, more information on factors and motives is needed. This knowledge is highly important for policy decisions.


This study aims to produce an overview of the last 30 years, the period since the founding of the first organisations offering suicide assistance in Switzerland, to discover the dynamics of AS. Both regional differences and differences among the organisations offering suicide assistance in procedures, documentation and clients will be investigated. This will allow factors to be identified that have had an effect on the development of AS. In addition, clients will be studied regarding their reasons for AS, with the aim of drawing up preventive measures in the context of palliative care. The study will analyse retrospectively and statistically all documents archived in Swiss institutes for legal medicine. In addition, from the project start onwards, all new deaths will be captured using the questionnaire designed for the study.


The results of the study will provide both an overview of the current state and a retrospective and prospective outlook on the development of AS in Switzerland and can be used as a basis for further debates and decision-making.

Original title

Assisted suicide in Switzerland – a detailed national survey over the past 30 years

Project leader

  • Dr. med. Christine Bartsch, Abteilung Forensische Medizin und Bildgebung, Institut für Rechtsmedizin Universität Zürich
  • PD Dr. med. Thomas Reisch, Universitätsklinik für Psychiatrie Bern



Further information on this content


Dr. med. Christine Bartsch Until Nov. 2015:
Institut für Rechtsmedizin Universität Zürich
Abteilung Forensische Medizin und Bildgebung
Winterthurerstrasse 190/52 8057 Zürich +41 79 731 69 59

Products of the project