Dignitas (euthanasia group)
Dignitas is a Swiss group that helps people with assisted suicide. This means that, if a person is very ill and wants to die, the doctors and nurses help them to end their life. Only people who have a terminal illness or very bad physical or mental illnesses are allowed to be helped. The patients must be able to understand what is happening and decide for themselves that death is what they want.
Dignitas was started in 1998 by Ludwig Minelli, a Swiss lawyer. The law in Switzerland says that someone can help in an assisted suicide so long as they do not have any self-interest (for example, so long as they are not going to inherit money from the person who dies). The doctor has to meet the person on two occasions and make sure that the person really does wish to die. There must be evidence for this, i.e. the patient has to sign a paper, and two witnesses have to sign to say they saw the patient signing. If the patient is too ill to sign, a video film can be made. The patient is asked several times whether that is what they want. If everyone is absolutely sure, then he or she is given a drug which will kill them.
Some people travel from other countries such as Britain to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland so that they can be helped to die. For example, the rugby player Daniel James, who was 23, had a terrible injury to his spine which left him paralysed from his chest down, travelled there with his parents to die. In 2009 the British conductor Edward Downes and his wife both travelled to Dignitas where they died together.
- "Dignitas: British deaths" The Independent, 15 July 2009, p.4