Swiss law means Dignitas takes too long for some sufferers

Swiss law means Dignitas takes too long for some sufferers

In April 2015 the doctors confirmed that she had an aggressive pancreatic cancer that was eating into her liver and making its way through the rest of her body…She wanted to go to Dignitas, and so I went to work gathering the documents required by the organization, only to be confronted with one bureaucratic nightmare after another. Dignitas is so adamant in its role as a suicide prevention organization, and so exacting in their demands for medical and psychological diagnoses. Dignitas, however, is still the only organization in the world that takes patients of any nationality.

It was mid-June, and Dignitas had finally given me the coveted “green light,“ and offered me an initial appointment date of July 8, but it was too late. I had discussed the possibility of travel with my aunt’s doctor, and he said “Have you lost your mind? Have you seen your aunt? She’s attached to an oxygen tank the entire time. There’s no way she can travel, and no airline in the world will let her on a plane.”

In the end, my aunt didn’t get to choose. She died in a way she explicitly wanted to avoid — broken, in pain, humiliation, and anger. My aunt didn’t have a death wish; she was not suicidal. She had plans, hopes, and ambitions. She was terrified of dying. I saw that fear every day I was with her. That’s precisely why I still wish she had had the choice to end things on her terms: to confront that mortal fear head-on, to take charge of it, and to own it. To make it hers.

It is precisely this sort of trauma that an effective end-of-life legislation should help avoid, Dr. Robert Brody, an internist at San Francisco General Hospital, explained to me in March 2016. Dr. Brody stressed that the people who choose to end their life in this manner are not suicidal at all. “The people who use this act don’t have life in front of them, so it’s not a question of choosing life or death. It’s a question of choosing how they’re going to die, and when they’re going to die.”

Click for BuzzFeed article by Luisa Rollenhagen ‘My Terminally Ill Aunt Wanted To Die On Her Own Terms, But Couldn’t’ 30 August 2017

DIGNITAS kindly provided us with the following helpful response to this article:
“We would just like to stress the fact that it is not DIGNITAS’ own bureaucracy, but it is the Swiss legal system which imposes strict rules about allowing people from abroad to have access to a voluntary assisted death with DIGNITAS, which in turn results in us having to impose these rules – resulting in a lot of paperwork, bureaucracy – on suffering individuals and their families unfortunately. Each assisted/accompanied suicide in Switzerland prompts an investigation by the police, public prosecution office (state attorney), etc. We have to prove to them that what we do is legal, or else they will start a criminal investigation of DIGNITAS, the medical doctor who gave consent to the voluntary death, and possibly family members and friends who were present. What we do is to maintain safety for everyone involved and quality standards in the procedure. This is why we have been able to help over 2,300 badly suffering individuals from all over the world, including 24 Australians, with an accompanied, self-chosen end to their suffering in our almost 20 years of operation. We hope that Dying with Dignity NSW succeeds with their campaign to implement the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, so that soon no one will need to travel to DIGNITAS anymore.”

For more information about the provision of assisted dying in Switzerland to people who are NOT Swiss citizens see our Key Questions section and the answer to the question: ‘COULD I GO TO SWITZERLAND TO HAVE AN ASSISTED DEATH?’