Ludwig Minelli, the founder of the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic, has been charged for profiteering in the deaths of his clients. Accusations that Minelli charges inappropriate fees at the Dignitas clinic have circulated for years.
The Swiss media have reported that prosecutors are basing their case on two key cases. According to the Swiss Local:
In one of the cases, Minelli allegedly in 2010 charged a mother and daughter pair around 10,000 francs each instead of the usual cost of some 5,000 to 6,000 francs.
In the second case, Minelli is alleged in 2003 to have taken advantage of an 80-year-old woman who was sick but not terminally ill. He approached four doctors before finally finding one who was willing to aid to woman to commit suicide.
Prosecutors argue his persistence in this second case was based on the fact the woman had promised a 100,000-franc donation to Dignitas on her death. They also argue the woman gave power of attorney to Minelli, allowing him to transfer 46,000 francs to a Dignitas account when she died.
Swiss law permits assisted suicide as long as it is not done for “self-serving” motives. Breaking the law could result in a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Several years ago, Soraya Wernli, a former Dignitas employee, told the Daily Mail that Minelli was selling the personal effects of his dead clients at pawn shops and he was charging some of his clients exorbitant fees. Wernli also told the Daily Mail about the horrific death of Peter Auhagen. According to the article:
The gruesome 70-hour death of Peter Auhagen was the case that ended Wernli’s career with Dignitas and caused her to agree to be a secret informer for the police who were investigating Minelli.
Usually Minelli used a lethal dose of barbiturates to assist suicides but in the case of Auhagen, Minelli decided to test a “suicide machine” that the patient controlled the administration of drugs. Wernli said that: ‘the machine had a fault which meant it couldn’t pump all the poison into his system. The man was partially poisoned, in agony and thrashing around in a coma, frothing at the mouth and sweating. … It was a terrible thing to witness, and I knew it could not go on.
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Wernli recounts that Auhagen was still alive. She called Minelli who then came by and after a heated discussion he told the family to go for a walk and then someone administered the drugs by injection. Wernli claims that Minelli kept a supply of drugs in his personal office in case of an emergency.
In April 2013, Pietro D’Amico, a 62-year-old magistrate from Calabria Italy, died by assisted suicide at a suicide clinic in Basel Switzerland. His autopsy showed that he had a wrong diagnosis.
In February 2014, Oriella Cazzanello, an 85 year-old healthy woman died at a Swiss suicide clinic. The letter she sent her family stated that she was unhappy about how she looked.
In August 2015 a healthy depressed British woman died by assisted suicide in Switzerland.
Minelli also accused of dumping human remains into Lake Zurich.
Sadly, if convicted, prosecutors appear to be only seeking a fine.