The Dignitas clinic near Zurich

NOTE: Some details in this story have been corrected after clarification by Ludwig Minelli, the head of Dignitas

The Swiss group Dignitas has filed a complaint against the Zurich prosecutor’s office for interrupting an assisted suicide. On August 2, two people were scheduled to kill themselves at a Dignitas clinic. The first, at 9am, went according to the book. However, at noon a 67-year-old woman suffering from a genetic disease who weighed only 35 kilos encountered difficulties.

Normal procedures were followed. The woman drank a drug dissolved in a glass of water to prevent vomiting and 30 minutes later she began drinking a lethal dose of barbiturates. According to Dignitas, most patients fall asleep after 10 minutes and then become comatose and finally die of respiratory arrest within two hours. However this woman fell asleep before she had consumed a standard dose of the barbiturates. Two hours later she was still alive. A government lawyer called an ambulance and the woman was taken to hospital. The hospital did not try to revive her, but only provided comfort care. She died at about 7.30pm. 

Dignitas insists that the police over-reacted and that nothing amiss had happened which could possibly justify taking the woman to hospital. “Because of the woman’s weight she had already taken enough of the drug to die,” a Dignitas spokesman said. “The police acted in a random and provocative way against the wishes of the woman’s closest family, who were at her bedside the whole time.”

Dignitas is outraged and wants the police to be prosecuted for “interfering in a legal assisted suicide” and “abducting a patient”.

The Swiss government will investigate the incident. However, the police insist that they acted correctly. “The suicide procedure had clearly failed because she was not dead after two hours,” a spokesman for the Zurich prosecutor’s office said. “Police acted to avert any suffering that might have ensued on the patient’s behalf.” ~ Daily Mail, Aug 16, Neue Zuricher Zeitung, Tages Anzeiger, Aug 15

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.