Assisted suicide is a highly sensitive and debated practice, legal only in a few European countries. Jean-Jacques Bise, the co-president of a clinic specializing in physician-assisted death, has spoken about his experiences.
In the UK, a poll uncovered that 73 % of the participants hoped to see a change in the law that would make it possible to receive death assistance. For now, the practice remains illegal.
However, in Switzerland, the situation is different. Bise has explained what goes on inside the clinic Exit, which specializes in this kind of assistance.
When carrying out assisted suicide, the patient drinks a lethal substance by themselves. If the patient can not drink, a drip will be prepared.
The practice is very different from euthanasia, where death instead is administered by someone else than the patient.
Not anyone can get assisted suicide. The patient must meet medical criteria, and for the clinic Exit, the patient must also be a permanent resident or citizen of Switzerland.
Exit is privately funded, and its members pay either €1,100 for a lifetime or €40-a-year for a membership.
After a patient requests to undergo assistance, the doctor examines the medical issues and decides if they are severe enough. Patients with 'fatal illness, subjectively intolerable pains or unsustainable impairments' can become approved.
"If they meet the criteria, we look at our calendars and pick a date. Most people don't know when they'll die, but this is an unusual situation."
"On the morning itself, we ask them one final time if they still want to go through with it. If they have changed their mind, we bring everything to a halt. Our job is to help people, not coerce them."
At Exit, 15 grams of the lethal substance pentobarbital is used. The patient is given an anti-nausea pill before drinking it due to its extremely bitter taste.
Bise explained that the patient then yawns and falls asleep quietly and peacefully.
"It takes 20 minutes or so before a doctor can pronounce them dead. We then contact the police and the funeral providers."
Last year, the clinic assisted 223 women and 146 men to a peaceful ending.
A request that has grown in popularity is for couples to undergo assistance together. Bise shared that four couples were approved last year and died together.
"The last couple we guided had been together for 65 years. They could't imagine life without one another."
Working at the clinic, you help terminally sick people end their suffering and reach a peaceful ending. Bise chose to work at the clinic after experiencing two deaths in his family. The first death he described as very painful.
The second family member got assistance from a doctor who relieved the person's suffering with the help of morphine. The ending came faster and with less pain.
Bise realized the importance of assistance. Now he notices that many patients at Exit feel the same relief and say the words 'At last.'
"I guarantee you, after you go through so much suffering, life isn't really life anymore. So death often comes as a relief for these people; they feel freed."