Euthanasia: A companion tells how suicide takes place – News

Alois Carnier has been working as an escort at Exit for three years. In the conversation, he explains how it feels to support a person who is about to die in realizing this wish, how he helps the relatives and why he regularly has to reject requests.

Alois Carnier

Exit accompaniment, regional manager for suicide accompaniment in Eastern Switzerland

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58-year-old Alois Carnier has been working as a death companion at Exit since March 2021. Two years later – in April 2023 – he gave up his job as a computer scientist to take over the regional management of suicide support for Eastern Switzerland at Exit. Carnier also has a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology.

SRF News: What motivated you to accompany people to their deaths?

Alois Carnier: Self-determination has always been important to me. In life and also in death. When I saw an advertisement in Exit’s members’ newspaper, I thought: This would be a useful activity alongside my job.

This is how you become a companion

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Alois Carnier explains: “The most important prerequisite for getting involved as an accompanying person is a solid personality and life experience.” In addition, one should not be dependent on compensation for end-of-life care.

There are legal reasons for this: You are not allowed to accompany someone to suicide for “selfish reasons”; that would be a punishable offense.

According to Carnier, age and profession are less important. Many companions are retired and used to work in the healthcare sector. Overall, it is a “colorful group”.

If you apply to be an accompanying person, you go through a one-year training course. Afterwards, an assessment takes place at the University of Basel, during which it is also discussed how the companions personally deal with assisting people with suicide. The training is carried out annually. Exit employs around 60 escorts in German-speaking Switzerland and Ticino.

How does it feel to hand someone dying medication?

This is a very awe-inspiring moment for me, in which I also admire the courage of this person who always takes the drink without hesitation. But that’s also consistent: on the day itself, when I come in, I ask whether today is really the right time to die. I’m not paraphrasing it, I’m just calling it by its word. Even after this, the exit member is asked two or three more times whether he or she really wants to die. Overall, it is clear: the person who wants to die sets the pace.

A glass of water with medicine next to it.


View of the death room of the euthanasia organization Dignitas.

KEYSTONE/ Gaetan Bally

What is the mood in the room when someone is about to take their own life?

Very different. It can be very quiet, but also exuberant. Since the relatives were usually involved in the entire process, they can do some of the grieving work beforehand. Nevertheless, of course there will be tears shed. This is all normal at the moment. My job as a companion is to be the lead and to withdraw myself so much that the space is there for the relatives and that there is no pressure under any circumstances.

It could be that I say: That’s no reason for me to die.

After death, the police must be called. Isn’t that a shock for the relatives?

In fact, assisted suicide is considered an “extraordinary death”. That’s why we have to call 117. But we explain this to everyone involved in advance, so it’s no surprise. The authorities are very considerate. During the inspection, the relatives leave the room and are only asked whether they saw their relative drinking the euthanasia medication on their own.

Have there ever been cases in which you were not prepared to support someone committing suicide?

Yes, I almost make more rejections than acceptances. This is due to my role as regional manager. I am responsible for members with primary psychiatric diagnoses. Exit support is not always possible here. Even in the case of physical suffering, we can come to the conclusion that the requirements for assisted suicide are not met. In the case of mental illnesses, the hurdles are higher; two independent psychiatric reports are required. The wish to die must not be the result of a momentary depressive mood or crisis. Then I have to say: That’s no reason to die. Then we’ll see what other options there are. For example, arranging a crisis intervention center.

Suicidal thoughts? You can find help here

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  • Offered Hand, Tel. 143, (
  • Online counseling for young people with suicidal thoughts:
  • Offer from Pro Juventute: Tel. 147, (

And what does it look like for a healthy 84-year-old?

Basically, at Exit we don’t accompany anyone without a disability. But “healthy” is not an absolute. What constitutes subjectively unbearable discomfort depends on the individual. Pain, hearing or vision problems also play a role. In order to recognize this subjective feeling, I have at least one conversation with those wishing to die to get an idea. If it makes sense to me, then I will accompany you.

The interview was conducted by Jessica Bamford.

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