Swiss Suicide Clinic In the Dock Over Death of Man Suffering From Depression

by Gopalan on  May 23, 2009 at 11:57 AM Medico Legal News
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 Swiss Suicide Clinic In the Dock Over Death of Man Suffering From Depression
The Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas is facing a legal investigation over the death of a man suffering from depression.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland only when the person concerned suffers from a terminal disease like cancer.

A Swiss judge has ordered medical authorities to investigate the role of Dignitas in the death of Andrei Haber, a Romanian who lived in Fribourg, Switzerland, following a complaint from his relatives. Apparently he had written to them saying he was ending his life with the help of the clinic.

Judge Philippe Barboni said that the clinic may have breached Swiss law: "This case presents a particular fact: that the person didn't suffer from a serious or incurable disease, provoking severe pain. His motives were essentially psychological."

Dignitas was founded by Ludwig Minelli, a lawyer and former journalist, and is believed to have helped 1,000 people to die, usually by providing them with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Among those was Daniel James, a 23-year-old from Worcestershire who chose to end his life last year after being paralysed in a rugby accident.

Care Not Killing, which campaigns against assisted suicide in Britain, said that it was outrageous that someone suffering from depression was helped to die, and that even terminally ill patients were liable to change their minds when depressed. "Almost invariably, they change their minds over time... and die in due course peacefully and with dignity," a spokesman said.

Earlier this month it was reported that a multiple sclerosis sufferer killed herself after watching a BBC drama about euthanasia.

Angela Harrison, 44 and mother of two, died after taking an overdose on the night that A Short Stay in Switzerland was screened.

The play, starring Julie Walters, told the true story of Dr Anne Turner, who suffered a devastating degenerative disease and travelled to the Dignitas.

Anne Turner's story was tragic. She watched her husband die from motor neuron disease and had hardly recovered from his funeral when she exhibited the first symptoms of supranuclear palsy, a very similar condition but slightly worse, for its early stages affect your balance, physical and mental. As a doctor, she knew what the diagnosis meant, and that robbed her of hope.

She took power over her destiny and chose euthanasia. She summoned BBC News to record her last day and make a plea for legalisation of assisted suicide.

Dr Turner's son, Edward, said his mother had been determined to die, but that because of UK law had been unable to do so at home. He and his family are now campaigning for a change in the law to allow physician-assisted suicide in the UK.

But he stressed the programme was not a polemic for assisted suicide and that he hoped that it would be watched by people with a broad spectrum of beliefs, allowing them to make up their own minds while exploring the concept of death.

"Our mother was relatively able-bodied when she went off to Switzerland and would never have been able to have an assisted death in the UK. Also the final death scene was not easy.

"She was choking a bit because the barbiturates went down the wrong way.

"It is not a really peaceful ending. It is traumatic and difficult."

But he said: "The audience will make up their own mind whether assisted dying is right or wrong.

"It does show the desperation people have when faced with terrible symptoms. I hope it will help people talk about death. If we don't, we are going to condemn ourselves to bad deaths."

Source: Medindia

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