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Ten years after the first dying Briton travels abroad to die, new figures reveal that over 200 British people have been assisted to die at Dignitas

It is a tragedy that so many dying Britons have travelled abroad to die through lack of a safeguarded choice at home.

On 25th October 2002 a man with terminal cancer was the first Briton to be assisted to die at Dignitas. New figures have shown that this year alone 35 Britons have been assisted to die at the facility, meaning that now more than two hundred British citizens (217) have died at Dignitas, with the numbers of British members of the Swiss organisation fast approaching nine hundred (899).

Figures released to Dignity in Dying this week show that that the vast majority (74%) of those 217 British people who chose assisted deaths at Dignitas were women (56 men, 161 women).

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“This week the US State of Oregon will mark 15 years of enabling their terminally ill citizens to have the choice of an assisted death at home within upfront safeguards. This is in stark contrast to Britain where we shamefully outsource assisted dying to Swiss Professionals or British amateurs. It is a tragedy that so many dying Britons have travelled abroad to die through lack of a safeguarded choice at home.

“These figures show that this problem isn’t going to go away – in fact if these trends are to continue the issue is only going to get worse. Assisted deaths at Dignitas are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more dying adults resort to other methods in order to have choice and control over the end of their lives. Some people refuse food and water, others attempt suicide, and many more suffer unbearably and against their wishes at the end of their lives.

“With membership to Dignitas and assisted deaths in Switzerland on the increase, now is the time for us to face up to this growing problem. Next year an assisted dying bill will be tabled in the House of Lords. Parliamentarians must acknowledge that they have the power to prevent the suffering experienced by so many dying Britons by introducing a safeguarded assisted dying law.”

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act, a law similar to that which we campaign for in the UK will have been in force for fifteen years on Saturday 27th October, and demonstrates that it is possible and preferable to legalise and regulate doctor assisted dying.


Notes to editor:

Loved ones of all of those features in Four reasons to change the law are willing to speak to journalists.

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 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

Media Contacts:
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries or questions ahead of the debate please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at