The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Ex-doctor back in court for euthanasia of healthy pensioner

Next Wednesday, the Federal Supreme Court will deal with the assisted suicide of a healthy 86-year-old woman. Pierre Beck, former Vice President of Exit Western Switzerland, was acquitted last year by the Geneva judiciary of the charge of violating the Narcotics Act. The public prosecutor's office lodged an appeal.

The First Criminal Division will hear this case in public for the second time in three years. In December 2021, it overturned the conviction of the retired doctor for violating the Medicines and Medical Devices Act, but referred the case back to the Geneva judiciary for reconsideration under the Narcotics Act.

In February 2023, the Court of Appeal of the Canton of Geneva acquitted the former doctor of violating the Narcotics Act. It concluded that the mere fact that a doctor prescribes the sleeping pill pentobarbital to a healthy person who is capable of judgment and willing to die does not constitute conduct that is punishable under the Narcotics Act. At the same time, however, the judges reminded the court that a doctor must comply with the rules of his profession in connection with assisted suicide.

The Geneva public prosecutor's office appealed to the Federal Supreme Court against the acquittal by the Court of Appeal.

Ehepaar starb 2017

Beck had prescribed pentobarbital to an 86-year-old woman in 2017. This is a barbiturate used in anesthesia and as a sleeping pill. The elderly but healthy woman had decided to die together with her seriously ill husband and therefore contacted Exit.

The doctor complied with the 86-year-old's wishes and prescribed her a sleeping pill, which is lethal in overdoses. She administered the drug to herself. The couple passed away on April 18, 2017.

In the past, the former Exit vice president had defended himself in court by saying that the woman had been very determined. She had made it clear several times that she would definitely kill herself if she was not allowed to die together with her husband, he told the Geneva police court in 2019.

The doctor explained at the time that the woman had suffered a great deal psychologically and had carefully considered the decision. He therefore had no regrets about what he had done and would probably act in the same way again in a similar case. (Case 6B_393/2023)


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