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Think Pieces

Vol. 7 No. 1: April issue

Protecting life, facilitating death: The bureaucratic experience of organized assisted suicide

  • Marcos Freire de Andrade Neves
August 27, 2018


The process of organized assisted suicide (OAS), permitted in Switzerland under specific circumstances, requires applicants to produce and circulate an array of medico-legal documents. Obtaining these documents involves stressful interactions with family doctors, turning the bureaucratic experience into a very personal, and rather intimate, form of sociality. In this Think Piece, I suggest that by following how such documents are produced and circulated, we can better understand how OAS reveals an underlying tension between two figurations of life. Normatively, life is seen as a source of value that needs to be protected and preserved, but OAS statutes acknowledge that some individual lives require professional assistance to die. While legal protections are set up in order to protect life from OAS, these same protections are responded to via the establishment of a bureaucratic infrastructure that facilitates death. In this sense, medico-legal documents not only expose a tension between life and lives, but also enable the navigation of a bureaucracy that facilitates death within a legal framework designed to protect life.