British Woman Granted Suicide Trip to Switzerland Has Died

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 6, 2004

London, England ( — A woman has died whose husband was granted permission by a British judge to take her to Switzerland to have an assisted suicide. Police in Zurich confirmed that the 66 year-old critically ill woman died last Wednesday at a Swiss euthanasia facility.

The pro-euthanasia organization Dignitas, which helps disabled and terminally ill patients kill themselves, reported the death to police.

At the end of November a British judge overturned a previous ruling to allow the woman’s husband to take her to Switzerland.

"The court should not frustrate indirectly the rights of Mrs. Z,” Justice Mark Hedley wrote in an order.

Despite the authorization, the husband may face questioning from police when he returns to England.

The woman had been diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, an incurable brain disease. She had presented her request to a psychologist who cleared her saying she was making her own decision to have her life taken and is not being pressured by anyone else.

Win Crew, 72, of Liverpool, whose husband Reg traveled to Switzerland and died at the center, claims the woman, known as Mrs. Z in court records, likely received good care.

"They are wonderful people at the center. They were very caring and very helpful and made Reg’s end dignified," Crew told the British-based IC Cheshire news service.

However, ProLife Alliance spokesman Patrick Leahy told the Cheshire news outlet that better pain management and care for the elderly and disabled should be a greater priority than promoting suicide.

"We look forward to the time when the UK offers palliative care to everyone to remove any desire for people to end their lives in this tragic way," Leahy said.

Normally, aiding a suicide carries a jail sentence of as much as 14 years, which prompted the local authority to issue the original ruling two years ago preventing the husband from taking Mrs. Z to be killed.

After Hedley’s decision, attorney Mark Everall said Mrs. Z’s adult children don’t agree with their mother’s decision but support her anyway.

"The adult children of the family are again in a similar position. While clearly not wishing such a thing to happen, they support their mother in the decision she has taken," Everall said.

"This is yet another example of the pro-euthanasia lobby taking advantage of a vulnerable
person’s suffering to advance its cause rather than offering the compassionate help this woman clearly needs," said Paul Tully of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

The problem of British residents traveling to Switzerland for assisted suicides has come to a critical point recently.

The Swiss pro-euthanasia group known as Dignitas actively encourages British citizens to come to mainland Europe, where euthanasia is tolerated.

The problem has become so great that a public prosecutor in Switzerland has encouraged the nation’s parliament to pass a law prohibiting "suicide tourism."

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.

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