Sati With a Difference, In The West

by Gopalan on  April 3, 2009 at 2:48 PM General Health News
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 Sati With a Difference, In The West
Sati used to be an abhorrent practice in India, till the advent of the British - women being burnt alive on the funeral pyre of their husbands. Cut to modern times, and a Canadian woman wants to die along with her terminally ill husband. A Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas is facilitating the process.

Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, described suicide as a "marvellous opportunity" and felt it should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities.

"Suicide is a very good possibility to escape a situation which you can't alter," he said and argued that it would also save the National Health Service a lot of money.

For more than 10 years the centre has operated in a legal limbo - permissible under Swiss law so long as no one has assisted in the suicide for selfish gain.

So far nearly 1,000 people from across Europe and beyond have travelled there for the chance to give themselves a lethal dose of barbiturate.

They are left alone in a room as do so but their death is filmed and the footage handed to a coroner to prove that there has been no coercion.

Last month it emerged that Swiss prosecutors have demanded the organisation open its accounts amid questions over where the Ģ6,000 fee patients pay goes.

There have been claims that one woman was charged as much as Ģ61,000 and claims that patients' ashes have been illegally dumped in a lake.

The clinic was evicted from its original base, a flat in Zurich itself, in 2007 after neighbours complained about bodies being taken out in the lift, and hearses parked outside, Telegraph reported.

Unfazed, Minelli is planning to go to the Swiss courts to seek a ruling in the controversial case of a Canadian couple who have asked to die 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.

Mr Minelli, a human rights lawyer, tells The Report on BBC Radio 4 tonight that the British had an "obsession" with the requirement to be terminally ill.

"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."

Details of the planned suicides of the Canadian couple come after the deaths at the clinic of Peter and Penelope Duff, from Bath, Somerset.

The couple, aged 80 and 70 respectively, were both suffering from forms of colon and liver cancer when they died in February.

Mr Minelli admitted that some of the people helped to die at the clinic have been psychiatric patients suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

Swiss psychiatrists are refusing to co-operate with Dignitas so the clinic allows patients to provide their own medical papers from Britain.

"We have some problems because all the Swiss organisations 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."

Mr Minelli said that failed suicide attempts caused problems and extra costs for the British health service.

"For 50 suicide attempts you have one suicide and the odds of failing with heavy costs for the National Health Service," he said.

"In many, many cases they are terribly hurt afterwards, sometimes you have to put them into institutions for 50 years, very costly."

Daniel James, 23, from Sinton Green, near Worcester, was helped to die at the clinic last September after he had been left paralysed in rugby accident. Although not terminally unwell his parents said that he had been determined to kill himself.

Patricia Hewitt, the former Health Secretary, last month called for a law change to protect those who helped terminally ill relatives and friends travel abroad for an assisted suicide. She tabled an amendment to the Government's Coroners and Justice Bill to protect such individuals from prosecution.

But Ms Hewitt has since criticised Dignitas for allowing people with mental illnesses to have an assisted suicide without being seen by a psychiatrist in Switzerland.

"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."

Although suicide is no longer a crime in England and Wales, aiding and abetting suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Swiss authorities say that they are currently reviewing their assisted suicide law, which could make it more difficult for people to travel to the country to commit suicide.

At present Swiss law only prevents assisting a suicide if there is a "self-interested motivation".

Switzerland's medical ethics commission has drawn up a long list of recommendations, including longer assessments, and tougher appraisals of psychiatric patients wishing to kill themselves, and of couples in apparent suicide pacts.

Source: Medindia

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in itself i'm not against assisted suicide, but when i hear these stories about dignitas i think they go way to far.
any docter who agrees to kill a patient should first try to change that patients mind.
these docters have convinced themselves that suicide is wonderfull and are now trying to push that believe onto others.
if these others are docter or politicians that's fine, but if these others are patients it is not
just another example of psychiaters manipulating very vulnerable people into the mold they have of how a patient should behave

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