Swiss right-to-die group gets green light for new suicide room

ZURICH - A Swiss organisation that helps terminally ill people take their own lives and defends their right to refuse medical treatment said on Monday local authorities had allowed it to open another room for assisted suicides.

Exit, which provides lethal drugs to help people die, said the Basel canton's local building council had dismissed objections to its plan to convert part of its office in Binning, Switzerland, into an assisted suicide room.

Some local residents and businesses had objected to having such a facility nearby and argued it did not conform to local building regulations.

The room would be Zurich-based Exit's second in Switzerland. The group's board will now decide whether to convert the room. "I expect that we will go ahead with the conversion because the reason for it is clear," said Exit Managing Director Bernhard Sutter. "Patients who live in Basel, who cannot be helped at home and who cannot travel to Zurich would have a place where they can die." Exit helps the vast majority of patients at their homes and the assisted suicide room is for people who do not have their own bed to die in.

In March, Exit said its membership reached a record high last year after a 20 percent surge in requests to join.

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s, if performed by someone with no direct interest in the death.

A rise in the number of foreigners seeking assisted suicides in Switzerland has provoked heated debate in the country.

In 2011, voters in the canton of Zurich rejected a proposed ban on assisted suicide and "suicide tourism". A year later, the national parliament voted against tightening controls on the practice.

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