Families are known to be involved in assisted dying and their involvement can be influenced by many factors.
To explore how Swiss families interact with health care professionals and right to die associations regarding assisted suicide and their choices around disclosure.
A secondary data analysis on a cross-sectional qualitative interview study conducted in the Italian and French speaking parts of Switzerland was conducted. Interviews with 29 bereaved family members were analyzed using framework analysis.
Two main themes were identified: 1. Interactions with physicians and right to die associations. 2.Choices about disclosing their experiences. In general, families believed that assisted suicide is a private matter, to be pursued mainly outside the medical field and involved physicians only when necessary. Families appeared to deliberately limit interaction with physicians and to be more comfortable interacting with right to die associations. Some participants presumed a clear choice between assisted suicide or palliative care. Disclosing to others the decision, and preparation of assisted suicide emerged to be an important emotional burden for families. Some family members preferred to restrict disclosure before and after assisted suicide, by sometimes not informing other family members until the final days.
In Switzerland, there is limited interaction between families and health care professionals concerning assisted suicide decisions, while families reported more open interactions with right to die associations. It is recommended that the needs of families should be reflected in health policies, taking into consideration the different contexts where assisted dying is permitted.