Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, has been interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Report’. Responding to his views on assisting suicide, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“The choice of an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults should only be available within a framework of strict legal safeguards that protect vulnerable people. Regrettably, the failure to provide a safeguarded choice in the UK is forcing some terminally ill adults to travel abroad to Dignitas to die. This lack of choice combined with a lack of safeguards is a recipe for disaster. Doing nothing is no longer an option, it is now time to effectively regulate end-of-life decision making.
“In the absence of a safeguarded assisted dying law in the UK and effective regulation of Dignitas by the authorities in Switzerland, Parliament must act. We need to prevent the needless prosecution of friends or relatives who accompany a loved one to Dignitas, but at the same time we need to send out a clear signal that assisting non-terminally ill adults to die is wrong.”
Notes to editor
The interview with Ludwig Minelli will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 8pm tonight (Thursday 2 April).
The current law:
· Assisting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment in England and Wales
· Section 2 (1) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years
· Section 2 (4) of the 1961 Suicide Act states: No proceedings shall be instituted for an offence under this section except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions
· To date no one who has accompanied a loved one to Dignitas has been prosecuted. However, people have been questioned by the Police and threatened with prosecution.
About Dignity in Dying:
· Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
· Dignity in Dying has over 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
· Opinion polls consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population support a change in the law on assisted dying.
· There is no connection between Dignitas and Dignity and Dying
· Dignitas opened in 1998 and the clinic has so far helped at least 868 people to end their lives – over 102 of these were from the UK
· Dignitas has upward of 725 members in the UK
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