* Switzerland has liberal euthanasia laws
* Germans, Britons make up two-thirds of cases
* Neurological diseases most common reason for ending life
ZURICH, Aug 21 The number of foreigners
travelling to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide doubled
over a four-year period, a study published in the Journal of
Medical Ethics said on Thursday.
In 2012, 172 foreigners took their lives in Switzerland,
which has liberal euthanasia rules, up from 86 in 2009, with
citizens from Germany and Britain making up almost two-thirds of
the total, the study found.
Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the
1940s, if performed by someone with no direct interest in the
"Mercy killing" is also legal in the Netherlands,
Luxembourg, Belgium, and some U.S. states but remains illegal in
many countries, pushing some terminally ill people in those
coutries to travel abroad where they can be helped to die
without fear of their loved ones, or doctors, being prosecuted.
Courts in Britain, France and the European Court of Human
Rights have been struggling with the delicate issue in recent
Neurological conditions, such as paralysis, motor neurone
disease, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis were the decisive
factor in almost half of the cases examined in the study.
A rise in the number of foreign assisted suicides has
provoked heated debate in Switzerland. In 2011, voters in the
canton of Zurich rejected proposed bans on assisted suicide and
"suicide tourism". A year later, the national parliament voted
against tightening controls on the practice.
An analysis of the 611 cases between 2008 and 2012 found
people from 31 countries were helped to die in Switzerland
during the period. The median age was 69.
Nearly half came from Germany, while 20 percent were
British. Other countries in the top 10 included France and
Italy, which both saw particularly steep rises.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)