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Assisted deaths in Switzerland for UK residents: diagnoses and their implications for palliative medicine and assisted dying legislation
  1. Colin Brewer1,
  2. Marie-Claire Hopwood2 and
  3. Graham Winyard3
  1. 1Retired addiction psychiatrist, Forner Medical Director, the Stapleford Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Palliative Care, Island Health Vancouver Island BC, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3Former Medical Director, NHS Executive England, Winchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Colin Brewer, Psychiatry, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK; brewerismo{at}


Objective UK campaigners for a law permitting assisted dying (AD) restricted to those with a maximum life expectancy of 6 months claim that this would largely remove the need for UK residents to seek AD in Switzerland. We wanted to discover whether this prediction was correct.

Methods We analysed the diagnoses of UK residents who had such deaths including, for the first time, data from all three of the main Swiss providers of AD to non-residents, comparing them with figures from Oregon, which has a 6-month restriction.

Results Only 22.7% of UK residents had cancer (Oregon 72.5%) while nearly half (49.6% and over half including dementias) had neurological conditions (Oregon 11.2%) and many with prognoses of much more than 6 months.

Conclusion Overall, less than half would meet a 6-month prognosis criterion. This has significant implications for patients, palliative care clinicians and legislators.

  • Advance Care Planning
  • Chronic conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Pain
  • Quality of life

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  • Contributors CB obtained UK diagnoses from the three Swiss providers.CB and GW analysed the data and wrote most of the paper. M-CH provided a perspective from palliative care.All three authors contributed to and approved the final text.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests CB and GW are members of MDMY (my death my decision).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.