More British Obtain Assisted Suicides in Switzerland Than Expected

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

More British Obtain Assisted Suicides in Switzerland Than Expected

Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
September 5, 2004

London, England (
— The number of British citizens who have sought assisted suicide appears to be higher than originally thought. According to BBC News, some twenty-two Britons have attempted to end their lives with the assistance of the Swiss euthanasia group known as Dignitas.

Euthanasia is banned in Britain, but a bill lifting the ban is expected to be presented to the House of Lords this week.

The "Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill" bill will be introduced by Lord Joffe. The measure would "enable a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal illness to receive medical assistance to die at his own considered and persistent request."

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a pro-euthanasia group, has delivered a petition with more than 80,000 signatures to the House of Lords in an attempt to win passage of the bill.

The Society’s Deborah Annetts told the Daily Post, "This indicates that people are prepared to seek alternatives when the law provides none.

The pro-euthanasia group is also citing a poll which claims that half of all Britons might go abroad for assisted suicide if they had a terminal illness. Pro-life advocates note, however, that people are far less likely to seek assisted suicide if they receive adequate treatment for pain and depression.

Julia Millington of the ProLife Party told the BBC, "…evidence from countries where euthanasia has been legalized, such as Holland, shows that it is not possible to prevent the boundaries from being expanded. Voluntary euthanasia has led to involuntary euthanasia."

It is estimated that more than 550 U.K. residents now belong to the Zurich-based Dignitas. Officials with the organization have said that typically 1 in 5 members accepts the offer of assisted suicide, but it is difficult to verify that claim.