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Fifty-four Britons have now gone to Switzerland for an assisted death (17 September 2006)

17th September 2006

Four Britons have gone to Switzerland for an assisted death in the last six weeks

Fifty-four Britons have now gone to Switzerland for an assisted death

It has emerged that the number of Britons having help to commit suicide in Switzerland has now surged past fifty, with four Britons choosing travel abroad to have help to die from the Zurich based organisation Dignitas in just over a month.

This means that there have been twelve cases of British people seeking Dignitas’ assistance to die since the high profile case of Dr Anne Turner who died on 22 January this year.

British membership of Dignitas is now significantly over 800 and now looks likely to reach 1,000 before the end of the year.

The cases continue to draw no response from the prosecuting authorities. On 11 August Stefan Sliwinski was informed by Essex police that no charges would be brought against him for helping his mother, who suffered with Multiple Sclerosis, to travel to Zurich from their home in Clacton-on-Sea. Dr Turner’s daughters and son, Sophie, Jessica and Edward, were similarly not charged by Bath police. However, Swansea police continue to investigate the family of Paul Bennett, who died there on 1 May with his wife, his parents, his uncle and his best friend at his bedside.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying commented:

“I am shocked and saddened by this news. Each case that occurs is emphatically underlining that the Government is content for people suffering from terminal illnesses to have help to die elsewhere but not in their own country surrounded by their friends and family.

“These cases are gathering momentum and a signal is being sent to the British public that if they can afford to go abroad to die, that’s no problem, but if you have such help here your relatives could face 14 years or life in prison.

“The General Medical Council has said we can regulate assisted dying in this country without insurmountable difficulties. Surely that is better than imposing greater trauma on British people at the end of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The Government must make time in Parliament for the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.”

Chris Davies, MEP for the North West of England, earlier this year investigated assisted dying in Switzerland and wrote a report urging the British Government to change the law here. He commented:

“Our law denies people in the most extreme suffering to exercise their free will and seek help to die. This is not a humane policy; it is more akin to torture. Unless we make changes to allow people in these cases the chance to make a decision for themselves, the numbers seeking to die in Switzerland will increase year by year.”