Swiss voters rejected a proposal to ban assisted suicide and suicide tourism in the Canton (political district) of Zurich.

In a referendum on May 15, about 85 per cent of voters in Zurich rejected a proposal to end legalized assisted suicide while about 78 per cent rejected a separate proposal to stop the practice of suicide tourism by foreigners in their Canton.

Two conservative political parties, the Evangelical People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, supported the referendum, promoting palliative care as the best option to care for seriously ill people at the end of their lives. The groups argued that the presence of assisted suicide clinics run by the Exit and Dignitas organizations, and their promotion of suicide tourism, damages Zurich’s image.

“Assisted suicide is the fruit of egoism and a growing lack of piety,” Michael Welz from the Federal Democratic Union told the Zurich cantonal parliament, according to a Swissinfo report. “Those who take their own life do not die in dignity but in moral distress and despair,” he added.

Other political parties, including the Swiss People’s Party and the Social Democratic Party, opposed the move to limit suicide tourism.

The growing number of foreigners, particularly from Germany, France and Britain, who travel to Switzerland to kill themselves, has raised concern and provoked heated debate.

Swissinfo noted, “Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death. But since the 1990s pressure has grown on politicians following various scandals involving the deaths of mentally ill patients and so-called suicide tourists.”

Last year the Dignitas clinic was investigated over allegations that it helped a mentally unstable man who was not terminally ill to kill himself, and that urns containing human ashes were being dumped in Lake Zurich.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, commented on the referendum vote: “We hope that the citizens of Zurich will recognize how assisted suicide threatens the lives of vulnerable people. That suicide tourists are often subtly coerced into an assisted death out of fear of being abandoned rather than being assured that they will be cared for until they die a natural death.”

A version of article originally appeared May 18 on and is reprinted with permission.