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Dying Britons should not have to travel over 500 miles to a foreign country to have what they consider to be a dignified death

To date over 150 Britons have been assisted to die at Dignitas in Switzerland. A referendum in the Swiss Canton (State) of Zurich on Sunday will ask residents whether a) assisted suicide should be outlawed, and b) whether the choice of an assisted suicide should be limited to residents of Zurich. If the residents were to vote in favour of either of these options, the restrictions would apply only in the Canton of Zurich, where Dignitas is currently based, not the other 25 Swiss Cantons.

Commenting, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Swiss law is a matter for the Swiss people and it is quite right that they should decide what is appropriate for their country in relation to assisted dying. Ultimately we cannot rely on the Swiss to provide a compassionate solution for Britons suffering at the end of their lives.

“Decision-makers have so far avoided dealing with this issue, in part because the option has been available to those Britons who can afford it and are physically able to travel, to choose an assisted death in Switzerland. However, this is just a small part of the problem. At present, terminally ill people unwilling to suffer against their wishes at the end-of-life are forced to ask loved ones to risk imprisonment and help them to die; others are illegally helped to die by doctors without safeguards, and some attempt to end their lives alone, behind closed doors.

“We must consider as a society if it is reasonable to accept the principle of compassionate assistance to die but be unwilling to deal with the reality, instead relying on Switzerland to manage the consequences of our law. I don’t believe that it is.

“Much better would be an assisted dying law with upfront safeguards, which would investigate a request to die when the person is still alive and alternative options can be set out. This would better protect potentially vulnerable people, provide choice at the end of life for those suffering unbearably and prevent those who act compassionately towards another’s request to die from lengthy and distressing investigation whilst grieving for the loss of a loved one. Furthermore it would allow people to die at home surrounded by their loved ones.

“Whatever the results of the referendum, we in the UK should be regulating assisted dying for our terminally ill adults. Dying Britons should not have to travel over 500 miles to a foreign country to have what they consider to be a dignified death.”


Notes to editor:

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 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.

Media Contacts:
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at