At the moment, the only route to a chosen death for people in the UK is to fly to Switzerland.
Dignitas in Zurich is the clinic many recognise by name. It has helped 1,100 people end their life (around 110 of them from the UK) in the last 12 years. By contrast, recent report by think-tank Demos, The Truth About Suicide, reports that as many as 400 suicides a year in England are committed by someone with a chronic or terminal illnes
Choosing to Die BBC documentary
In June 2011, a BBC documentary, showed author Terry Pratchett (who has Alzheimers), visiting Dignitas and thoughtfully exploring the challenging issues around assisted dying.
He met two people who chose to end their life in Switzerland. Peter Smedley (of Smedley jams) had motor neurone disease and 42 year old Andrew Colgan had MS. We were privileged to meet these brave people and their families and understand various perspectives on the issue.
In the programme he also met the widow of Hugo Claus, a fellow author who also had Alzheimers. He opted for an assisted death and she was with him at the end. They drank champagne. He smoked his last cigarette. She lay holding him and sang to him. He joined in and died singing. She misses him but is glad he was able to exercise that right.
Lots of people are ‘on the books’ of Dignitas but never take up the offer – they just like to know they have the option. For those who opt to end their life the process is: make an appointment, fly to Zurich, assessment by 2 doctors the night before the appointment, travel (view of the Alps) to the clinic: a pleasant apartment and garden in an industrial site. There’s paperwork to sign directly before the appointment and further checks to ensure you are definite about your choice. Then, with your family or friends at your side if you choose, you drink a lethal cocktail that puts you to sleep in seconds before a quick and painless slide into death. There was a subsequent empassioned Newsnight discussion.
Dignitas recommend contacting UK based Friends at The End FATE for support for anyone in the UK considering this route. Phone: 0141 334 3287.
Dignitas have provided some detailed information for us: