History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Early German 21st

Lukas Bärfuss

Lukas Bärfuss described the ups and downs of euthanasia, 2010

In the early 21st century, social drama in Switzerland is given strong impetus by Lukas Bärfuss (1971-?) with "Alices reise in die Schweiz" (Alice's voyage in Switzerland, 2007) concerning the limits of euthanasia.

Alice’s Voyage in Switzerland “is a considerable contribution to public polemics on the question of euthanasia...Storm agrees to help only when a person does not hesitate and his life is hopelessly pointless and/or excruciating indeed. At the same time he always leaves the chance to return. Checking the seriousness of intentions of his patients, giving them detailed information of an impending step they are going to take, at last, executing their last and conscious will, doctor Storm keeps a law of patient’s autonomy, having become a central principle of bioethics...Storm, this black knight, fighting for human dignity, is a tragic character. He [suffers the fate of an] awful loneliness for his selfless devotion” (Lisenko and Shevchenko, 2016 pp 94-96).

Alice's voyage in Switzerland

Euthanasia map of Europe: Blue: Active euthanasia legal; Yellow: Assisted suicide legal; Green: Passive euthanasia legal; Red: No legal form of euthanasia /Any form of euthanasia prohibited; Black: Ambiguous legal situation; Grey: No data, 2014

Time: 2000s. Place: Hamburg, Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland.

Text at ?

In an apartment in Germany, Dr Gustav Strom, an euthanasialogist, explains to Alice the procedure involved in preparing for assisted suicide. She must travel to Switzerland, where the procedure is legal, though with many constraints on the unpaid practitioner. He advises Alice to tell her mother, Lotte, of her intention. Thinking that Lotte might prevent her suicide, Alice is reluctant to do so, but at last agrees to it. At first Lotte does not believe her daughter intends to commit suicide, then tries to make change her mind, but without success. Hearing of Dr Strom's practice and believing in its humanitarian purpose of alleviating needless sufferings, Eva asks him for a position as his assistant, which he accepts, specifying details on how she must appear in front of the client. "No makeup, no perfume," he orders. "You are young: that alone may be a provocation." A second client of Dr Strom's, John, an Englishman, is about to be injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital when he asks for a glass of whiskey. It makes him drunk, reminding him that his mother believed one spent eternity in the state one died in, so that he calls off their agreement, though promising to return. Since her daughter has already attempted to kill herself in the past, Dr Strom tries to obtain from Lotte her consent to his services, but she resists. Subject to a chronic disease whose symptoms have worsened, John returns with a crutch, but is nevertheless unable to submit to the injection, once more promising to return. Because of his exaggerated commitment to assisted death, Dr Strom is eradicated from the Order of Physicians. As a result, he is unable to prescribe pentobarbital, but must give John flunitrazepam, a minor tranquillizer, combined with covering of the head with a plastic bag. Though previously he had approved of the doctor's humanitarian purposes, in view of the present conditions, the owner of his apartment changes his mind and evicts him. Because of his persistence, Dr Strom is arrested and interviewed by a psychiatrist, but then released. John returns yet another time, but, despite being an estimated two weeks from death as a result of a chronic disease, he is still unable to submit to the procedure. After leaving her mother in a numbed state, Alice returns to Dr Strom, now living in a shabby apartment, and drinks the tranquillizer. But, contrary to their agreement, she asks the doctor to place the bag over her head himself instead of placing it over her own head. But for legal reasons, Gustav insists that she does so herself. Alice obeys and dies.