Dignitas (euthanasia group)

Dignitas (euthanasia group)

Dignitas is a Swiss assisted suicide (euthanasia) group that helps those with incurable physical and mental illnesses to die with the aid of doctors and nurses. It was founded in 1998 by Ludwig Minelli, a Swiss lawyer. Swiss laws on assisted suicide hold that a person who assists in an assisted suicide can only be prosecuted if they are motivated by self-interest.

Dignitas not only helps those with incurable physical illnesses such as cancer to commit suicide, but now also provides euthanasia to those with incurable mental illnesses, provided that they are of sound judgment and submit an in-depth medical report prepared by a psychiatrist that establishes the patients condition as fulfilling the specifications of the Federal (Supreme) Court of Switzerland.


Ludwig Minelli said in one interview [http://www.tagesspiegel.de/weltspiegel/Sterbehilfe-Dignitas-Minelli;art1117,2502357 Wenn Sie das trinken, gibt es kein Zurück] "Tagesspiegel.de" Retrieved 2008-04-12] in March 2008 that Dignitas assisted 840 people, 60% of them were Germans.

Most people coming to Dignitas do not plan to die but need an "insurance" in case their illness becomes intolerable. Of those who receive "green light", 70% never return to Dignitas .


The "Daily Mail" of London has chronicled examples of alleged shortcomings by Dignitas. According to a January 26, 2007 article:

Paul Clifford, 40, said the family had had a ‘terrible’ experience and likened the [Dignitas] flat where his mother died to a ‘backstreet abortion place’ with graffiti-covered walls.

To add to his shock, when Mrs Coombes raised concerns that her son might struggle to cope with her death, a member of staff said he, too, could die at a ‘cut price’ rate.


‘He wanted us to go out of the room while he checked she was dead. We had to sit on a flight of stairs which stank of urine.

‘We went back in but two police officers, the state prosecutor and two staff and a medical examiner arrived. We were asked loads of questions, with my mum still slumped there, at the same coffee table, in her wheelchair. We were there for at least two and a half hours.’ [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=431793&in_page_id=1770 Swiss suicide clinic like a backstreet abortionist's] "Daily Mail"]

It should be noted, however, that Dignitas moved to a new location in a village of Schwerzenbach [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=539929&in_page_id=1811 Euthanasia group Dignitas films gas and plastic bag deaths] "Daily Mail"] since the article was written.

High-costs and non-transparent finances

According to Ludwig Minelli , Dignitas charges its patients €4,000 (about $8,000.00 US dollars) for preparation and suicide assistance, and €7,000 (about $14,000.00 US dollars) in case when it takes family duties over, including funerals, doctor costs and official fees.

Despite being a non-profit organization, Dignitas repeatedly refused to open its finances to the public [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/31/AR2005103101824.html Branching Out to Serve a Growing but Dying Market] "Washington Post"] .

Suicide tourism

Right-wing politicians in Switzerland repeatedly criticized suicide assistance for foreigners, labeled as "Suicide Tourism" ("Sterbetourismus" in German). New regulations were proposed to limit possibilities of legal suicide assistance for foreigners in Switzerland. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/03/14/weuth14.xml Swiss to crack down on suicide tourism] "Telegraph"] The law primarily targeted Dignitas, the only right-to-die group in Switzerland assisting foreigners.

Swiss government rejected proposed stricter regulations in 2006, maintaining status quo [ [http://www.nzz.ch/2006/05/31/il/newzzENVLG88R-12.html Kein Gesetz gegen Sterbetourismus] "Neue Zürcher Zeitung"] as regulated by Paragraph 115 of Swiss Criminal Code.

Use of non-standard suicide methods

In a few cases in 2008, Dignitas used breathing helium as a suicide method instead of Nembutal overdose. Normally Dignitas uses overdose of a sleeping pill Nembutal, as most other right-to-die organizations worldwide do.

Some people believe that hypoxic death caused by Helium is less peaceful than Nembutal ingestion and causes severe twitching .The reason for this decision was, according to Dignitas, a new regulation imposed by medical authorities of Canton Zurich in Switzerland. This regulation prohibits doctor to write a prescription for Nembutal after a single consultation. Some people are so ill that they cannot travel to Zurich several times.

Other organizations in Switzerland

"EXIT" is another Swiss organization providing assisted suicide. In 2008, it has 50'000 members. However, EXIT strictly denies suicide assistance for people from abroad [ [http://www.drs.ch/www/de/drs/themen/umstrittene-sterbehilfe/12985.12986.dignitas-und-exit-leisten-hilfe-bei-der-selbsttoetung.html Dignitas und Exit leisten Hilfe bei der Selbsttötung] "Deutsche Radio Schweiz" ] .

EXIT Switzerland is not affiliated with Exit International, similarly named voluntary euthanasia organization founded by Philip Nitschke.


ee also

* Euthanasia
* Assisted suicide
* Suicide

External links

* [http://www.dignitas.ch/ Dignitas website] (In German) ( [http://www.dignitas.ch/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=117&Itemid=166 some information in english] )
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2676837.stm Dignitas: Swiss suicide helpers] (BBC news article about Dignitas, Last Updated: Monday, 20 January 2003, 14:38 GMT)
* [http://www.exit.ch Exit home page]
* [http://www.geocities.com/friends_at_the_end/minelli-dignitas-london01-12-07.html DIGNITAS in Switzerland - its philosophy, the legal situation, actual problems, & possibilities for Britons who wish to end their lives] A Talk given to a meeting of Friends at the End, in London

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