Swiss Suicide Clinic Dignitas@2006-2008
¡ Daily Telegraph, BBC etc.
20090110@Daily Telegraph Assisted suicide law does not need to change - DPP
@Dignitas founder accused of profiting from assisted suicides"
@Assisted suicide law 'workable'"
@Dignitas under investigation for 'profiteering' from assisted suicide patients
@Dignitas defends assisted suicidehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7977017.stm
20090403@The Times Dignitas founder plans assisted suicide of healthy womanhttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6021947.ece
@Dignitas Assisted Suicide Clinic in Switzerland Probed, Killed Man With Depression@http://www.lifenews.com/bio2858.html
@Assisted suicide: Debate around the world@http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8270516.stm
Assisted suicide statistics: the numbers Dignitas helps to die, by countryhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/feb/25/assisted-suicide-dignitas-statistics#data
@Comic book artist ends life at suicide clinic after battle with MS@http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7527788/Comic-book-artist-ends-life-at-suicide-clinic-after-battle-with-MS.html
@Dignitas defends assisted suicide
Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 12:37 UK
The founder of Swiss right-to-die organisation Dignitas has defended helping Britons, including some psychiatric patients, kill themselves.
Ludwig Minelli told the BBC suicide was a "marvellous possibility" and he wants the assisted suicide law clarified for the healthy partners of dying people.
Former Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said his comments showed the need for a change in UK laws.
More than 100 Britons, mostly terminally ill, have died at Dignitas.
In his first broadcast interview for five years, Mr Minelli told BBC Radio 4's The Report that failed suicide attempts created problems and heavy costs for the UK's National Health Service.
He said: "I have a totally different attitude to suicide. I say suicide is a marvellous marvellous possibility given to a human being."
He added: "Suicide is a very good possibility to escape a situation which you can't alter."
Mr Minelli said: "It is not a condition to have a terminal illness. Terminal illness is a British obsession.
"We are not a clinic. As a human rights lawyer I am opposed to the idea of paternalism. We do not make decisions for other people."
And Mr Minelli revealed that his organisation plans to test the legality of assisting the suicide of a healthy woman whose partner is terminally ill.
"There is a couple living in Canada, the husband is ill, his partner is not ill but she told us here in my living room that 'if my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him'.
"We will now probably go to the courts in order to clear this question."
Dignitas is known in Britain for having helped more than 100 people to kill themselves.
The majority were terminally ill, but there have been more controversial cases such as psychiatric patients and couples, even when one was less ill than the other.
Suicide assistant Soraya Wernli said she resigned from Dignitas because she was concerned at the way couples and mentally ill people were dealt with by the organisation.
"I have no problem at all with assisted suicide, if somebody is terminally ill, my problem is with how Dignitas deals with it," she said.
Dignitas has also been criticised for helping Daniel James, aged 23, to commit suicide last year after he was paralysed while playing rugby.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said Mr Minelli was offering "a seductive but dangerous solution to the feelings of anguish and hopelessness experienced by some people with mental illness".
She said they should have greater access to effective treatment, rather than the "one-way ticket to despair and unnecessary death" offered by Dignitas.
Last month, Patricia Hewitt tabled an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have guaranteed protection from prosecution in England and Wales for relatives and friends who accompany people travelling abroad to kill themselves.
The amendment was not voted on.
But asked whether she was aware that people with mental illnesses were able to commit suicide at Dignitas without being seen by a psychiatrist in Switzerland, Ms Hewitt said: "I don't think that would be an adequate safeguard for somebody suffering from a psychiatric illness.
"That's why it would be much better to have a British law on this issue."
Swiss authorities are reviewing their assisted suicide law, which could make it more difficult for people to travel to the country to commit suicide.
Its main medical ethics commission has drawn up a long list of recommendations, including longer assessments, and tougher appraisals of psychiatric patients wishing to kill themselves, and of couples in apparent suicide pacts.
The commission's President, Christoph Rehman Sutter, told the BBC that Switzerland's law consists of one sentence in the penal code that says assisted suicide is a crime if it is done for self-seeking motives.
"We have this very strange situation of having a practice without regulation," he said. "There is no regulation at the moment."
Switzerland's Justice Ministry told the BBC it is will put forward proposals for reform within the next two months.
20090403@The Times Dignitas founder plans assisted suicide of healthy woman
April 3, 2009
The founder of the Swiss assistedsuicide clinic Dignitas was criticised yesterday after revealing plans to help a healthy woman to die alongside her terminally ill husband.
Ludwig Minelli described suicide as a gmarvellous opportunityh that should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities. Critics said that the plans highlighted the risks of proposals to legalise assisted suicides in Britain for people in the final stages of a terminal illness.
The Dignitas clinic in Zurich claims to have assisted in the deaths of more than 100 Britons. The Zurich University Clinic found that more than a fifth of people who had died at Dignitas did not have a terminal condition.
Mr Minelli said that anyone who has gmental capacityh should be allowed to have an assisted suicide, claiming that it would save money for the NHS.
He expects to go to the Swiss courts to seek a ruling in the case of a Canadian couple who have made a suicide pact to die together. gThe husband is ill, his partner is not ill, but she told us here in my living room that, eIf my husband goes, I would go at the same time with himf,h he said.
Mr Minelli, a human rights lawyer, told the BBC that the British were obsessed with the requirement for a patient to be terminally ill to justify an assisted suicide. gIt is not a condition to have a terminal illness,h he said. gTerminal illness is a British obsession. As a human rights lawyer I am opposed to the idea of paternalism. We do not make decisions for other people. We should have a nicer attitude to suicide, saying suicide is a very good possibility to escape.h
Mr Minelli admitted that some of the people who had been helped to die at the clinic had been psychiatric patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Swiss psychiatrists are refusing to co-operate with Dignitas so the clinic allows patients to provide their own medical papers from Britain.
gWe have some problems because all the Swiss organisations of psychiatrists have told the public that they will not make such reports,h he said. gIf we would have a psychiatrist from the UK giving an extended report, then no problems.h
Mr Minelli said that failed suicide attempts caused problems and extra costs for the NHS. gFor 50 attempts you have one suicide and the odds of failing with heavy costs,h he said.
Patricia Hewitt, a former Health Secretary, called last month for a change in the law to protect those who helped terminally ill relatives and friends to travel abroad for an assisted suicide. Yesterday she criticised Dignitas for allowing people with mental illnesses to have an assisted suicide without being seen by a psychiatrist in Switzerland.
gI donft think that would be an adequate safeguard for somebody suffering from a psychiatric illness,h she said. gThatfs why it would be much better to have a British law on this issue.h
Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which is campaigning to decriminalise assisted suicide in Britain, expressed concern over Mr Minellifs position. gWe believe the law should change in the UK to allow terminally ill, mentally competent, adults to have the choice of an assisted death but we are also very clear that should be within a strict framework of legal safeguards,h she said.
gI am very concerned about Dignitas. Mental competence is an essential precursor to an assisted death and we are absolutely immovable on that. We need to give a clear signal that to assist non-terminally ill adults to die is wrong.h
Peter Byrne, the director of public education at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that he could not imagine a British psychiatrist writing a report that a patient was mentally capable of agreeing to suicide.
gAlthough it would be possible to say that someone who is miserable or in pain has the capacity to understand that they want to end their life, that could simply be hiding undiagnosed depression,h he said. gI have seen more than 5,000 people who have attempted suicide and the state of mind is never clear. Hardly any of them after the event still wishes they were dead.h
A spokesman for Care Not Killing, a campaign opposed to any weakening of the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide, said that Mr Minellifs comments showed why any legalisation of assisted dying would open a gPandorafs box of nightmare scenariosh.
gOnce the border on assisted suicides is opened it will be impossible to close,h he said. gIt would have huge public policy consequences for the plight of people who are terminally ill, very old or suffering from mental illness.h
Although suicide is no longer a crime in England and Wales, aiding and abetting suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. No one has so far been prosecuted for taking a person abroad for an assisted suicide.
Swiss authorities say that they are reviewing their assisted suicide law, which could make it more difficult for people to travel to the country to die. At present Swiss law forbids assisting a suicide only if there is a gselfinterested motivationh.
@Assisted suicide law does not need to change - DPP
The Director of Public Prosecutions, the country's top prosecutor, has insisted the law on assisted suicide does not need to change, just weeks after ruling a couple who helped their son die should not be punished.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 9:48AM GMT 10 Jan 2009
The new Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, admitted that a change in the law may provide "greater clarity" but said the current legal standing is "workable".
He also revealed he is awaiting more key evidence before deciding whether charges should be brought against Tory MP Damian Green and the Home Office whistleblower who passed him information.
And he echoed concerns that crime is expected to rise in the economic downturn and work was underway to ensure the Crown Prosecution Service was prepared to deal with it.
Last month, Mr Starmer announced it was not in the public interest to prosecute Mark and Julie James for helping their 23-year-old son, Daniel, kill himself at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.
He admitted there had been factors in favour of prosecution, including the seriousness of the offence, but they were outweighed by the wider public interest.
The following day the Prime Minister Gordon Brown ruled out any changes to the law to allow assisted suicide but said decisions to help someone in such circumstances was a matter of conscience.
The two moves were taken by some observers as an effective green light for friends and relatives to help loved ones use the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland without facing prosecution.
Speaking ahead of his first public speech yesterday, Mr Starmer said: "The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable.
"If the law is changed it may bring greater clarity but it's a matter of speculation as to what any change would be.
"Whether there is to be a change in the law is a matter for Parliament not for me."
Mr Starmer also said he hoped to make a decision on whether to bring charges against shadow immigration minister Damian Green, who was arrested last year, and Whitehall mole Christopher Galley, "as soon as is reasonably practicable".
The CPS was reviewing the evidence police had provided and would examine it "properly and thoroughly", he said.
He said the investigation of Whitehall leaks was at a "very sensitive stage" but confirmed he is expecting more evidence to be handed to him.
"Some material has now arrived here for us to consider. We are considering it and hope to make a decision as soon as reasonably practicable," he said.
"Obviously the decision will be made public and whatever can be said about it will be made public by the CPS.
"We are hoping for the earliest possible decision once we have reviewed the decision properly and thoroughly. I don't want a delay but I don't want it rushed."
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Starmer, who took up his post in November, paved the way for some court cases to be televised after saying he had no objection to them in principle.
He said Government plans to keep records of emails, text messages and browser histories needed to be protected by "effective safeguards".
Asked if data could be collected only when crimes had been committed he said: "It's the overall purpose of the exercise that's important. I don't think that can be approached on a piecemeal basis."
He defended the Human Rights Act as a "constitutional instrument of the first order", and also criticised Tory plans to take some prosecution decisions out of the hands of the CPS.
The proposals, which would hand police powers to charge in some cases, would be "a mistake", he said.
@Dignitas founder accused of profiting from assisted suicides
Tucked away on a Swiss industrial estate and with a steel door deterring unwanted visitors is the suicide clinic which has sparked controversy across Europe.
By Patrick Sawer, in Zurich@Last Updated: 11:02PM GMT 10 Jan 2009
It is here that hundreds of terminally ill, paralysed or depressed patients, including around 100 Britons, have come to end their lives with a lethal cocktail of drugs.
The Dignitas clinic, half an hourfs drive from Zurich, has aroused strong feeling on both sides of the assisted suicide debate.
While some regard the assisted suicide group as offering a last measure of dignity to those who want to end their suffering, others see its activities as immoral.
But now the clinicfs founder, Ludwig Minelli, is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors over claims that Dignitas is making a profit from the fees it charges patients ? contravening the Swiss law that sanctions assisted suicides and its own status as a charity.
Prosecutors told The Sunday Telegraph that they are also investigating an allegation that patientsf personal possessions have gone missing after their deaths.
The accusations are part of a two-year inquiry by the authorities in Zurich into Dignitasfs activities.
Mr Minelli has refused to talk about either the allegations or the investigation, although it is understood he has strongly denied the claims to prosecutors.
The disclosures come after the Crown Prosecution Service said that it was happy with the current law on assisted suicide under which dozens of Britons have ended their lives in Zurich ? sometimes with the support of relatives.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said the recent decision not to prosecute the parents of the paralysed rugby player, Daniel James, 23, for accompanying their son to the Dignitas clinic showed that the law was "workable".
The Swiss investigation into the activities of Dignitas is expected to end later this year.
Prosecutors will then decide whether there is any evidence to bring charges against Mr Minelli or other staff at the clinic.
In an exclusive interview, Urs Hubmann, the public prosecutor for the canton of Zurich, who leads the investigation, said: "Claims that personal possessions have gone missing from patients who have died at the clinic are being investigated by police.
"We are also examining whether assisted suicides have been carried out at Dignitas for selfish reasons, such as financial gain.
"We have to establish the facts of the claims, if any, before proceeding further.ff
Mr Minelli, 75, would face up to five years in prison if he was found guilty of assisting suicide for "selfish motives" and risks a longer jail term if also convicted of fraud charges.
Among the allegations being examined is that one woman paid more than ?200,000 (178,000) to the clinic. The normal fee is around ?6,000.
Mr Minelli, a former journalist and lawyer, has been accused in the Swiss press of becoming a millionaire on the back of the deaths which take place at his clinic.
The claims have been rejected by Mr Minelli, who founded the clinic in 1998 and has assisted around 1,000 suicides.
Many of the patients are terminally ill but others are thought to suffer from depression, prompting fears they do not receive adequate counselling there.
Sources close to the Zurich prosecutors said the investigation was prompted by negative stories about Dignitas in the Swiss and French media, as well as claims from former members of staff. One nurse who assisted 30 deaths during her two and a half years at the clinic said she was so disturbed by its activities that she quit her job.
She claimed people were rushed into making a decision about ending their life.
Soraya Wernli, who left Dignitas in 2005, has spoken to police about her concerns. She said she quit after becoming convinced that Dignitas was being run to make money. Ms Wernli said: "I joined because I believed it was a good organisation which helped the terminally ill end their suffering but I came to realise it was really something different. It was all done for money."
However, many relatives praised the way Dignitas handles the deaths of those in its care, including Mary Ewert, 59, whose husband Craigfs suicide at the clinic was shown on British television last year. She said: "He knew that at any point he could decide not to go through with it."
Prosecutors said that while former members of staff have made accusations against the clinic, no relatives of patients have made any complaints.
Mr Minelli lives in a smart apartment in a village outside Zurich, where neighbours described him as friendly, engaging and intelligent.
One, a teacher in her fifties, said: "Nobody here believes he runs the clinic for profit. He believes in trying to help people who are suffering."
The setting of Mr Minellifs hillside home is in stark contrast to the Gewerbezentrum Ifang industrial estate in the town of Schwerzenbach, where Dignitas is based.
Here, on the second floor of a business unit, close to a garage, a workshop and a martial arts centre, patients are left alone in a room with a lethal dose of pentobarbital sodium, a barbiturate commonly used by vets. To prove no coercion has taken place they are videoed administering the drug to themselves, by mouth or intravenously. Police, a coroner and a doctor examine the film before the body is taken to the local crematorium.
Mr Minelli said he only accepts patients who have passed weeks of counselling to determine whether they intend to take their own life.
But even in liberal Switzerland his activities have aroused disquiet. Residents in the nearby town of Wetzikon, where Mr Minelli has bought a two-storey house and workshop to open a second clinic, have opposed the plans.
Mr Minelli refused to speak to The Sunday Telegraph, or answer a number of detailed questions that we submitted to him about his activities. However, he has denied all the claims made against him.
He recently said: "If the state prosecutors feel Ifm making myself rich they should start legal proceedings."
@Assisted suicide law 'workable'
Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009
The director of public prosecutions has said the law on assisted suicide is "workable" in its current form.
Keir Starmer spoke in the wake of the decision not to prosecute the parents of Daniel James, who helped him kill himself at a Swiss clinic last year.
He said a change in the law could bring "greater clarity," but it was up to Parliament to decide on any amendment.
Mr Starmer also said he would decide whether to prosecute Tory MP Damian Green "as soon as is practicable".
Mr Green was arrested last November by detectives from the Met's counter-terrorist command in connection with a series of leaks from the Home Office.
Mr Starmer took over as head of the Crown Prosecution Service in November.
Last month, he released a detailed statement explaining it would not be in the public interest to prosecute Mark and Julie James for helping their 23-year-old son take his own life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.
Mr Starmer said he wanted to be as "open and honest" as he could about prosecution decisions, such as the James case.
"I think if I'm to be transparent I have a duty to explain that decision to the public," he said.
"Otherwise, you will say to me, 'You made a public interest decision but you won't tell us what it is.'"
Daniel James was left paralysed after a rugby accident in March 2007 and his parents were investigated by police following his death.
Mr Starmer said on Friday: "The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable.
"If the law is changed it may bring greater clarity, but it's a matter of speculation as to what any change would be.
¦@The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable
Director of public prosecutions
In a wide-ranging interview ahead of his first major speech as DPP, Mr Starmer said the investigation into Whitehall leaks was at a "very sensitive stage".
He said he would examine the evidence regarding Mr Green "properly and thoroughly".
"We are considering it and hope to make a decision as soon as reasonably practicable," he said.
"Obviously, the decision will be made public and whatever can be said about it will be made public by the CPS.
"We are hoping for the earliest possible decision once we have reviewed the decision properly and thoroughly. I don't want a delay, but I don't want it rushed."
Mr Starmer was also asked his opinion on whether court proceedings in Britain should be televised, as in the US.
He said he had "no objections in principle to greater openness of court proceedings" and he could not see any reason in principle why "in due course with safeguards there should not be some television".
He also said government plans to keep records of all e-mails and text messages sent in the UK needed to be protected by "effective safeguards".
And he defended the Human Rights Act as a "constitutional instrument of the first order".
@Dignitas under investigation for 'profiteering' from assisted suicide patients
The Swiss euthanasia clinic Dignitas that has helped close to 1,000 people kill themselves is under investigation amid fears it may be profiteering from its vulnerable patients.
By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:46PM GMT 07 Jan 2009
Dignitas, which is meant to be a non-profit organisation, is being forced to open its accounts to prosecutors in Switzerland and disclose how much money it is receiving from its controversial business of assisting suicide.
The founder of the group is reported to have become a millionaire by helping at least 870 terminally ill people ? an estimated 100 of whom were British ? die. It is said to have taken as much as 61,000 from one woman, 10 times its usual fee.
Swiss law allows Dignitas to provide patients with a dose of barbiturate and a room in which their deaths are filmed, to prove they administered the lethal injection. But it remains illegal to help someone die for personal gain.
Juerg Vollenweider, state prosecutor in Zurich, said: "We still don't even know what Dignitas does with the 10,000 Francs it is paid (6,000) or what it is for.
"If we are kept from taking a look into their accounting, we could see that as selfish motives."
The law exists to stop people persuading wealthy relatives to kill themselves in order to claim an inheritance.
"But if Dignitas can also be shown to have selfish motives, it could be in a lot of trouble," a legal source said.
According to the Swiss newspaper Blick, the head of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, has so far failed to hand over the books, claiming he needs to transfer them from old computer software.
He said: "As soon as I find enough time I'll do it. If the state prosecution feels I'm making myself rich, they should start legal proceedings."
It is the latest in a series of scandals to hit the clinic since it began operating in 1998.
Last year it was evicted from a flat in Zurich after neighbours complained about dead bodies being taken out in the lift and hearses parked outside.
Swiss officials have also investigated allegations that the remains of dead patients were being dumped in lakes after being cremated. Two Dignitas workers were allegedly caught trying to pour the ashes of 20 bodies into Lake Zurich, but a former employee claimed at least 200 people's mortal remains had ended up in the same body of water.
Its operations have been the subject of intense debate over assisted suicide laws in this country, because so many of Dignitas's patients have been British.
Last year Daniel James, a 23-year-old who was paralysed while playing rugby, ended his life at the clinic after travelling there with his parents but the Director of Prosecutions decided not to charge them with any offence.
A graphic account of Dignitas's practices was also shown on British TV for the first time, when Craig Ewert was filmed by Sky Real Lives as he turned off his life-support ventilator and took a dose of sedatives at the clinic.
Britons are likely to continue using Dignitas's services after Gordon Brown ruled out any relaxation of the law on assisted suicide. It is currently a criminal offence, punishable by up to 14 years in jail, to "aid, abet, counsel or procure" someone else's suicide.
The Prime Minister said recently: "It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else.
"I think we have got to make it absolutely clear that the importance of human life is recognised."
Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, went to the High Court last year in order to force the authorities to spell out under what circumstances people will be prosecuted for helping loved ones die ? but judges threw out her case.