Dignitas Founder Planning Assisted Suicide of Healthy Woman at Swiss Clinic

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 3, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dignitas Founder Planning Assisted Suicide of Healthy Woman at Swiss Clinic

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 3
, 2009

London, England (LifeNews.com) — The founder of Dignitas, the pro-euthanasia group that operates the Switzerland-based euthanasia clinic, has revealed plans to kill a healthy woman in an assisted suicide. Backers of the practice claim they want suicides for terminally ill patients and the elderly, but they are pushing the envelope even further.

Ludwig Minelli calls killing a healthy patient a "marvelous opportunity" and says assisted suicide should no longer be reserved for the disabled or very ill patients.

The Dignitas clinic has killed more than 100 people and reports from Zurich University indicate at least 20 percent of them were not terminally ill. But Minelli isn’t concerned about that.

“It is not a condition to have a terminal illness,” he said.

“Terminal illness is a British obsession. As a human rights lawyer I am opposed to the idea of paternalism. We do not make decisions for other people. We should have a nicer attitude to suicide, saying suicide is a very good possibility to escape," he added.

He told the London Times that anyone with the “mental capacity” should be allowed to have an assisted suicide. Minelli also plans to ask the Swiss courts to allow a Canadian couple to die who want to end their lives together.

“The husband is ill, his partner is not ill, but she told us here in my living room that, ‘If my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him’,” he said.

Minelli admitted that some of the people he has killed are mentally ill — people who should have received mental health help not suicide. That is resulting in local mental health professionals and officials looking down on his suicide clinic.

“We have some problems because all the Swiss organizations of psychiatrists have told the public that they will not make such reports,” he said. “If we would have a psychiatrist from the UK giving an extended report, then no problems.”

Patricia Hewitt, a former Health Secretary, told the Times she doesn’t support allowing healthy people or the mentally ill to kill themselves at the Switzerland clinic.

“I don’t think that would be an adequate safeguard for somebody suffering from a psychiatric illness,” she said. “That’s why it would be much better to have a British law on this issue.”

Even Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, the group seeking to legalize the practice in England, is opposed to killing people who are not terminally ill.

And a spokesman for Care Not Killing, a campaign opposed to any weakening of the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide, said Minelli’s comments show why any legalization of assisted dying would open a “Pandora’s box of nightmare scenarios”.

“Once the border on assisted suicides is opened it will be impossible to close,” he said. “It would have huge public policy consequences for the plight of people who are terminally ill, very old or suffering from mental illness.”

Wesley J. Smith, an American bioethicist, commented on Minelli’s desire to kill healthy people.

"I don’t know why anyone would be surprised by this story," he says.

"Assisted suicide advocacy rests on two fundamental ideological premises: First, that we own our bodies and it is the ‘ultimate civil liberty’ to decide on the time, manner, and place of our own demise," he said. "Second, that killing is an acceptable answer to the problem of human suffering."

"Once these values are accepted, preventing death on demand becomes logically unsustainable," he added.

Although other assisted suicide advocates opposed Minelli, Smith says he’s more representative of what the euthanasia movement wants than they care to admit.

"Minelli is not a fringe player, he is just more honest then some of his other brethren and sistren in the euthanasia movement," he says.

"Death on demand for anyone with a non transitory desire to die is either the goal of the movement–or, given its ideological premises–is the inevitable ultimate outcome of assisted suicide advocacy," he adds.

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