Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa: "For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort."
On 17 June 2016, Bill C-14 – an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) – passed in the House of Commons and the Senate and is now law in Canada.
However, Bill C-14 will be challenged in court because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s decision: by limiting access to only those patients whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable”, the new law denies rightful access to entire classes of patients who have severe chronic conditions but who are not approaching end of life. (Link)
On 6 February 2015, in a unanimous 9:0 decision Canada’s Supreme Court has struck down the country’s Criminal Code laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. The rule didl not come into force for 12 months, extended by another 4 months on application by the government to gain time for drafting legislation. This delay elapsed 6 June 2016. It means it is no longer against the law, under certain circumstances, for a doctor to help someone who is severely ill to end their life.
As part of its response to the Carter decision, the Government of Canada has established the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. The mandate of the Panel is to engage Canadians and key stakeholders on issues the federal government will need to consider in its response to the Carter ruling.
There has been criticism on the Panel being that Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov and Catherine Frazee – two of the three panellists – were witnesses against assisted dying in the Carter v. Canada case. This raises questions as to the independence of the panel, it undermines its credibility and it could lead to a biased final report. (Link)
Furthermore, there has been critique that the survey the panel used was designed to manufacture fear, for example by telling people that “some say” that assisted dying may decrease resources for the disabled and then asking whether people are concerned. Or the question of whether a hypothetical 17-year-old with a full and complete understanding of his or her condition should be able to receive a doctor's help to die – whilst in fact the Supreme Court decision dealt only with adults, not emancipated minors. (Link); for a full report read: A Methodological Analysis of the Issues Book Survey on Doctor-Assisted Dying (Link/PDF)
11 - 14 May 2016
WFRtDS World Federation of Right to Die Societies Biennial International Conference in Amsterdam
9 June 2016 / 2 April / 30 July 2015 / 18 December 2015
Inquiry into End of Life Choices Are Victorian laws adequately meeting people’s expectations regarding medical options available at the end of their life? The Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, called for submission as it is interested in the community’s views, insights and experiences in relation to this issue, to inform its recommendations to the Parliament.
On 2 April 2016, a delegation of the Legal and Social Issues Committee at the Parliament of Victoria in Australia investigating End of Life Choices, including physician assisted dying, chaired by Hon Edward O'Donohue (Link), visited Dignitas to learn from the experience in Switzerland.
In December 2016, Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, announced that in 2017, Government will introduce assisted dying legislation for Parliament to vote on (Link). The news in the media (Link)
The ‘Inquiry into End of Life Choices’ in Victoria, Australia, was followed by a further discussion paper from the Victorian Government: ‘Greater say for Victorians. Improving End of Life Care’, with an aim to develop a new state-wide end of life care framework.
The Legal and Social Issues Committee tabled its Final Report on its Inquiry into End of Life Choices in Parliament on 9 June 2016 – coinciding with the day, the End of Life Option Act came into effect in the US-State of California.
In New Zealand, the Health Select Committee of the Parliament has received a petition of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others requesting “That the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.” An investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand was undertaken and public submissions were called on this petition, no. 2014/18.
21 January 2015 / 4 June 2015 / 4 + 11 September 2015 / 5 October 2015
Californian State Senators Lois Wolk, Bill Monning and others, backed by Brittany Maynard’ family, introduced the ‘End of Life Option Act: modelled after the 1997 Oregon Dying with Dignity Act, the Bill would give a terminally ill, mentally competent adult resident in California, the right to ask and receive from his or her physician a prescription for a lethal drug to end his or her suffering.
On 2 September 2015, the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee of the California Assembly approved of the California End of Life Option Act by 10 : 3 votes, and two days later the Assembly Finance Commitee by 5 : 3 votes. In a next step, the bill will be voted on by both houses of the California Legislature.
On 11 September, the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) was approved by 23 : 14 votes of the Senators after it was approved by 43 : 34 votes in the Assembly. The Bill only needs one more step which is the signature of Governor Jerry Brown.
Speech by Debby Ziegler, mother of Brittany Maynard who had to move from California to Oregon in order to make use of her right to end her suffering self-determinedly:
On 5 October 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., a Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, signed the End of Life Option Act. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others." he wrote in his signing message. Thus, California becomes a further US-State in which terminally ill have freedom of choice to self-determinedly end their suffering with physician’s assessment and prescription of medication. The End of Life Option Act definetely took effect on 9 June 2016.
11 September 2015
The British Lower Chamber, the House of Commons, held an extensive debate on the Assisted Dying Bill introduced by Rob Marris. The proposed Bill was rejected by 330 against 118 votes.
Dignitas is very disappointed that UK residents are still forced to travel to Dignitas. The 330 MPs who voted against the Assisted Dying Bill should be ashamed for their disgraceful ignorance towards the clear public opinion which is pro-choice in ‘last matters’, and even more so for forcing the people who elect them and pay taxes for them to go abroad when all they want is to have the basic human right of a self-determined, accompanied by loved ones and safe end of suffering. Clearly, these 330 MPs do not respect what the European Court of Human Rights has ruled on January 20th, 2011 (application no. 31322/07, judgement Haas, paragraph 51): ‘In the light of this jurisdiction, the Court finds that the right of an individual to decide how and when to end his life, provided that said individual was in a position to make up his own mind in that respect and to take the appropriate action, was one aspect of the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the Convention' Dignitas sends a big Thank You to all of the 118 MPs who supported the Assisted Dying Bill. They show that there is humanism and there is hope to one day pass a Bill which will give people the freedom of choice they have been asking for decades. The main aim of Dignitas is to disappear; for this, since 1998, Dignitas works for the worldwide implementation of ‘the last human right’ – which is free choice in end-of-life options and therefore includes access to an accompanied suicide. As soon as the UK and further countries implement what is sensible and humane – which is the Swiss thirty year practice in combining palliative care, suicide attempt prevention, advance directives and the right to choose in life and at life’s end – nobody from the UK or anywhere else will have to travel to Dignitas anymore and thus Dignitas will and can close down.
5 June 2015
Vincent Humbert may die – after seven years in coma
The European Court of Human Rights allows for the discontinuation of artificial nutrition and hydration
With this judgment, the ECHR unanimously ruled admissible the application of four family members of Vincent Lambert, as far as it concerned article 2 of the Convention; by 12:5 votes, the rest of the application was considered inadmissible. When considering the question whether discontinuing measures to keep Mr. Lambert alive would be permissible, the Court decided – again by 12:5 votes – that no violation of article 2 (right to life) would result from this. Therefore, the judgment of the French High Court, the Conseil d’État, can be implemented. This signifies that the life-sustaining measures of Vincent Lambert, who has been tetraplegic, fully dependent, artificially nourished and in persistent vegetative state (PVS) since a road accident on 29 September 2009 can be discontinued. The minority of five judges, from Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Georgian Republic, Malta and Moldavia, denied the Court the title “conscious of Europe” due to this judgment.
12 May 2015
Debate in Warsaw, Poland: „Eutanazja Powinna Zostać Zalegalizowana” with Prof. Tadeusz Bartoś, Maria Czubaszek, Dr. Kamil Sipowicz, Prof. Bogdan Chazan, John Godson and Łukasz P. Skurczyński. Moderator: Grzegorz Nawrocki. Presented by the Oxbridge Society of Poland
In a Court Order of 30 April 2015 and subsequent judgment of 4 May 2015, Judge Fabricius of the High Court of South Africa (North Gauteng High Court) ruled that Robert James Stransham-Ford, who was dying of prostate cancer and who had asked the Court to determine whether a doctor could legally assist him to end his life, should be permitted to do so.
The British Upper Chamber, the House of Lords, held an extensive debate on the Assisted Dying Bill by Lord Falconer. In this Second Reading with a record 126 speakers, the Bill was supported by 64 against 59 with 3 neutral and therefore it will move on to Committee Stage.
In Australia, Federal Greens Senator and former GP Dr Richard Di Natale, has tabled an exposure draft for national dying with dignity - legislation in the Australian Senate. The Senate has passed a motion to have that Bill considered by a Senate Inquiry. The Inquiry has called for submissions from the public on the Bill. Dignitas has handed in a submission.
In Scotland, parliament member Margo MacDonald presented a revised proposal for an „Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill", to make it lawful, in certain circumstances, to assist another to commit suicide; and for connected purposes. A Commitee called for written evidence. Dignitas has submitted a response.
In this debate, the Union asks whether legalising assisted dying is moral, and whether sanctity or quality of life should be prioritised. The speakers in favour of freedom of choice in “last matters” win the debate by a clear 207 to 67 votes (with 54 abstaining). When will UK politicians listen?
16 April 2013
The Unitarian and Free Christian Churches support the Right to Die
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches held 11 – 14 April 2013 agreed the following resolution:
That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, recognising the worth and dignity of all people and their freedom to believe as their consciences dictate, believes that: 1) any individual who faces an intolerable existence because of a debilitating and/or incurable physical condition should have the right to seek support for the termination of their life in a painless and dignified manner and 2) legislation should respect their choice and allow them compassionate assistance in achieving such a death without fear of prosecution of anyone involved
Dignitas is delighted to have the support of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in our aim to enhance freedom of choice in 'the last human right'. Hopefully soon, no Briton needs to seek freedom in Switzerland anymore but may choose to have a self-determined and dignified end in life in the presence of loved ones at his or her own home.
Self-determination in the view of Europeans: The Swiss Medical Lawyers Association (SMLA) asked the renowned research institute ISOPUBLIC to carry out an extensive opinion poll, which analysed the position of the population in twelve European States on the issue of self-determination at the end of life
In Scotland, parliament member Margo Mac Donald lodged a proposal for a Bill, the „Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bil", to enable a competent adult with a terminal illness or condition to request assistance to end their own life, and to decriminalise certain actions taken by others to provide such assistance.
A message from Samantha - who allowed us to publish it here:
From: Sam D. [mailto:
] Sent: Saturday, 8 October 2011 04:22 To: Dignitas Subject: I don't know if you will read this or not but I just have a question…
Hello.. i'm hoping you speak english.. i came across your articles today because i am feeling utterly hopeless and think your view on assisted suicide for the mentally ill is phenomenal. I know a lot of people are against it and even think the thought of it is ridiculous.
If a person with severe depression is wanting to die and has tried literally everything (medication, therapy, holistic approaches, etc.) they should be able to have control of their own life. If I am just going to continue to try to kill myself why shouldn’t i be able to have help. If there is no help for the victim and all opportunities have been explored then why should i have to continue to suffer in agony.
Do i want to live in a hospital for the rest of my life? no... Do i want to be sedated and on like 5 different medications for the rest of my life? no. Tell me, how is that living.. nobody wants to live like that in constant pain and agony. I apologize for the horrid grammar but i just do not have the will to even use punctuation. I’ve been suffering for 10 years... do i deserve to suffer for the rest of my life?
You shed light on mental illness and i applaud you. That is all.
If you read my email i thank you greatly,
16 May 2011
The association „DIGNITAS – to live with dignity – to die with dignity“ expresses its heartfelt gratitude, in the name of all those individuals who need help today and in future, to the Zürich voters for their clear and liberal position in questions of assistance in dying, as expressed in the results of the vote of May 15, 2011. At the same time, DIGNITAS admonishes the authorities on federal and cantonal level to pay at last attention to the protection of human life where it is vulnerable to an exceptionally high degree.
Already in 2002, the Swiss Federal Council (the Swiss Government) explained that the yearly number of suicides in Switzerland counts up to 67.000 [see footnote 1] (which compares to the size of the population of cities like Luzern or St. Gallen or even to one third of the Canton of Basel-Stadt!). The number of suicide attempts is thus fifty times higher than the number of statistically registered suicides. Despite a postulate [see footnote 2] introduced by national council member Hans Widmer (SP, LU), the government did not undertake any actions to finally establish an effective suicide-attempt prophylaxis. Instead, since 2002, the government and the majority of the media depicted the justified and through associations carefully accompanied suicides in an impertinent, hyped and distorted way; entirely in ignorance of the real attitude of the large majority of the population.
DIGNITAS regards it as imperative to finally complement the efforts so far of preventing inconsiderate suicides (suicide prophylaxis) by a carefully thought-of policy of preventing suicide attempts (suicide-attempt prophylaxis).
On 17 April 2011, an article entitled “Who is to judge which lives are worth living?” written by Barbara Ellen appeared in “The Observer”. Following is what two members of DIGNI- TAS wrote to the editor, whereby giving permission to DIGNITAS to publish their letter:
From: G.S. Burnett & M. Svanderlik Sent: 18 April 2011 13:24:24 To:
Subject: Letters to the Editor
We must assume that Barbara Ellen ('Who is to judge which lives are worth living?') is not stupid; in which case, her thoughtless piece on assisted suicide is a disgrace to a serious newspaper and certainly no useful contribution to what is an important, contemporary debate. Ms Ellen confuses the issue by using the term, 'euthanasia' (literally "a good death") which, while technically encompassing both what we would call 'mercy killing' and 'assisted suicide', is commonly understood to mean the former, the termination of the life of another, in extremis, but without consent. This is highly tendentious and pollutes the current debate, which is principally about people's right to die when they choose, and to receive any necessary assistance to this end. To our knowledge, Terry Pratchett has never said or written anything that categorises the lives of others as "not worth living" and therefore eligible for termination. To associate his name with such a view is to vilify a wonderful writer with a fearful disease who is nobly and altruistically campaigning for the rights of others like him to end their days with dignity, at a time of their own choosing.
In imagining herself with "something nasty" (how belittling this is as a description of Alzheimer's Disease, as if it were diarrhoea or a boil) Ms Ellen opines: "The hope is that I'll choose." Exactly so. That is only what all the leaders of the current campaign are seeking: an individual's right to choose the point of his or her own death - acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights, as recently as January this year, as an inalienable 'human right'. No-one is crusading for the introduction of mercy killing.
And to refer, en passant, to Ludwig Minelli, the prime mover behind DIGNITAS, as a "ghoul" is to defame a gentle, elderly lawyer who has given up what should have been his years of retirement and repose, to try to help relieve the appalling suffering of others. He is not a ghoul but an angel of compassion.
Ms Ellen's witless scaremongering has no place in The Observer; we suggest you point her in the direction of the Daily Mail or The Sun, where her ill-informed and odious posturing will seem less conspicuous.
G.S. Burnett & M. Svanderlik Proud, fully paid-up UK members of DIGNITAS London
6 February 2015
In a unanimous 9:0 decision Canada’s Supreme Court has struck down the country’s Criminal Code laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. The rule will not come into force for another 12 months; however, it means it will no longer be against the law, under certain circumstances, for a doctor to help someone who is terminally ill to end their life.