Description du projet :
This project proposes an ethnographic inquiry into the practice of assisted suicide in Switzerland. Specifically it focuses on the kinds of knowledge and assessment, the varying forms of authority, the modes of valuation and the kinds of signification that are arranged during the process of assisted suicide and that shape the experience of those who participate in and facilitate it. Consequently, the aim is to observe as concretely as possible the practices of a plurality of individuals concerned and solicited during the process of the request and realization of assisted suicide. We would also wish to take into consideration the events that immediately follow death, as well as to give an account of how each assisted suicide is narrated by those affected, in which ways and between which persons. This project is to be carried out in close collaboration with our field partners, active throughout Romandy (French speaking region), the Basel region and the Canton of Ticino. The ethnography is to be conducted by anthropologists Prof. Dr. Marc-Antoine Berthod and Dr. Anthony Stavrianakis and social worker and sociologist Prof. Dr. Dolores Angela Castelli Dransart. A research fellow will be employed at 100% for the duration of the project.
The project aims to observe and document a series of situations of assistance with suicide; these situations take place in a unique context, to the extent that assisted suicide in Switzerland requires the support of the medical corps, but does not demand the implication of doctors in its implementation. Access to these situations will be negotiated with the aid of our field partners. Once an accord has been reached with the person who requests assistance with suicide, and following our ethical protocol of voluntary participation, confidentiality and anonymity (when desired), the researchers will adapt to the temporality of the procedures in progress. To the extent that it is possible the researchers will engage, on several occasions, the maximum number of actors implicated in each situation: doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, staff of right to die associations, persons who request assistance with suicide and their kin, the police, forensic medical teams, and the undertakers. The aim is to combine observations, informal exchange and in-depth interviews with these different actors to analyze the reality of this manner of dying and the different appreciations which traverse it. Moreover, it will be proposed that certain actors keep a “log book” – a quotidian chronicle – about their engagement in the process of assisted suicide, in order to enrich the study.
The originality of this project is the ethnographic focus on what is really occurring regarding this specific form of dying in Switzerland. It will give a descriptively anchored added-value to a highly controversial issue, debated in many countries today, too often embedded in ideological and moral terms remote from the effective interplay of the actors involved in the process of assisted suicide. The ethnography will permit the analysis of two key phenomena: how a person’s request is accepted (or rejected) such that they can (or cannot) end their life; how different experiences and evaluations about the realization of an assisted suicide are lived and negotiated, through the entire process, as well as afterwards. Within such a two-part problem of evaluation and appreciation there is a fundamental question of authority and justification: on what authority, and then with what justification are evaluations and decisions in this practice based? To respond to these questions we seek to reflect with our field partners on questions of authority, as well as questions of how to ensure and enact autonomy and the interest of persons suffering from illnesses. By studying the process through which assessments and significations are formed in practices of assisted suicide, our ethnographic endeavor will provide a baseline of knowledge to facilitate a reflexive approach to social, ethical and political questions about assisted suicide.
Research team within HES-SO:
, Castelli Dransart Dolores Angela
, Pillonel Alexandre
Partenaires académiques: Stavrianakis Anthony, CNRS, Paris, France
Durée du projet:
01.09.2017 - 31.08.2020
Montant global du projet: 324'000 CHF