A doctor in Switzerland who killed a married couple together has been convicted for the assisted suicide of a healthy person. Pierre Beck, who works for the notorious assisted suicide clinic Exit International, prescribed barbiturate pentoarbital to a healthy 86-year-old woman who wanted to die alongside her husband. Beck has already announced his intention to appeal the conviction.
In 2015, a couple came to Beck wanting to die. The husband was seriously ill, but the wife had no illness. Beck met with them again in 2017, and he helped the both of them to die, claiming that the woman was facing “existential suffering.” Beck told the court that “[sh]e told me clearly and irrevocably that she would kill herself” if he did not help her to die.
“I cannot psychically bear the prospect of surviving my husband and therefore take the necessary measures to to face my dismay in the event of my husband’s survival,” she told a notary in 2015. “I then ask Exit Suisse romande to lend me assistance to end my days in this world, without delay.”
Beck claimed that if he did not help her die, she would not only have killed herself, but would have done so violently, by throwing herself off the city walls. So he prescribed her the fatal medication, and despite his conviction, he still claims he does not regret his decision. “I am convinced that this lady was suffering intensely,” he told the court.
The only thing Beck said he would do differently is ask the advice of other doctors. “I am being reproached for having acted alone, and if it were to happen again I would do the same, but probably ask for advice,” he told Swiss television RTS. “I admit I went over the limits, but I was in an unusual situation and wanted absolutely to avoid this woman killing herself violently, which she seemed certain to do.”
While Beck was found guilty, his sentence was only 120 days, in addition to a fine. Beck said he plans to appeal to Switzerland’s highest court, despite the light sentence.
Exit International previously earned the ire of the Swiss Medical Association for approving the addition of “suicide due to old age” to their statutes. Other assisted suicide clinics, like Dignitas, have been willing to kill people for frivolous reasons, including fear over losing their youthful appearance.
The Swiss government has also approved the euthanasia of prisoners, even though people in captivity, by default, are incapable of consenting to such a thing.
Families of assisted suicide victims, however, have been speaking out about the need for better mental health care, and are pleading for the killing to end — something that, in countries like Switzerland, sadly seems unlikely to happen.