A team of psychology and ethics researchers has published a study suggesting that liberal legal attitudes to assisted suicide do not increase the desire for death in patients with incurable diseases. The study, carried out in Switzerland, does however show that patients can imagine asking their doctor to administer a lethal drug — something Swiss law forbids.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology for Clinical Settings, was carried out on a small test group of just 33 patients suffering from the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It's significant, however, because the neurodegenerative disease is one of the most common and, according to a study carried out by the University of Zurich in 2004, on average 24 percent of those who died in Swiss assisted suicide centres suffered from related diseases, with ALS specifically cited (the only diagnosis that led to assisted suicide more frequently was cancer). Also, patients' and caregivers' feelings towards assisted suicide have never before been studied.