by Steven Ertelt
July 3, 2006
Zurich, Switzerland (LifeNews.com) — A Swiss lawyer who is the head of a euthanasia group that runs assisted suicide centers says 573 people from all over the world have died at Dignitas centers. Ludwig Minelli plans to create a chain of centers across Europe and he claims in a recent interview that the group has saved more lives than it has taken.
Minelli says Dignitas has been able to break social taboos over suicide, which he called "a marvelous possibility" for people who want to end their lives through assisted suicide.
He claims the group has saved lives by helping people to talk more about end of life issues, which has resulted in fewer people committing assisted suicide who might have otherwise.
"We are the biggest suicide preventing organization," Minelli claimed in an interview with Reuters, alleging that 70 percent of the people who Dignitas clears to kill themselves don’t follow through.
"I have always been a person who helps people," he added, rejecting criticism from pro-life groups and others that his group encourages people to use assisted suicide.
Minelli told Reuters he wants everyone across the world to be able to access a local Dignitas center to kill themselves.
"People all over the world should be given an opportunity to have an assisted suicide with instructed helpers, preventing every risk, for a death without any pain," Minelli said.
"I think that within about 50 years, most parts of the world will accept it…so there are no longer any lonely suicides and just assisted suicides," he said.
But Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture, says Dignitas is doing a disservice to the disabled and elderly.
"Dignitas admits to having assisted the suicides of many people who were not terminally ill. As Minelli succinctly put it, ‘We never say no,’" Smith explained.
"Minelli’s position has a large constituency among euthanasia believers. Indeed, over the years, the movement has left many telltale signs that assisted suicide is not intended ultimately to be restricted to the imminently dying," he said.
Smith worries that, should Dignitas take its assisted suicide centers worldwide that a right to die will turn into a duty to die.
"Once assisted suicide is accepted in law and culture, the premises of radical autonomy and allowing killing to alleviate human suffering would conjoin, unleashing the irresistible power of logic that would push us inexorably toward the humanist nirvana of death on demand," Smith says.