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Swiss ‘resent being a dumping ground for dying Britons’

An estimated 540 people from the UK have ended their own lives at Dignitas over the last  20 years
An estimated 540 people from the UK have ended their own lives at Dignitas over the last 20 years - RAFFI MAGHDESSIAN/CAVAN IMAGES

The Swiss do not like Britain outsourcing its “moral problems” to them, the brother of a woman who ended her life at Dignitas has said.

Pat Malone, whose sister Trudi Eadington travelled to the Swiss clinic after suffering with motor neurone disease, said they were “absolutely fantastic” but opposed being used as a “dumping ground”.

His comments come as Rishi Sunak said he would introduce assisted dying laws if Parliament was in favour of changing the law.

The Prime Minister on Wednesday told campaigners in the Daily Express: “If Parliament decided that it wanted to change the law then of course the Government would facilitate doing that in a way that was legally effective.”

A cross-party group of MPs on the Commons health select committee is investigating the issue, with a report expected this year. Mr Sunak’s pledge comes amid a renewed national conversation on whether to legalise assisted dying in Britain.

According to the Suicide Act 1961, it is a criminal offence to encourage or assist in the suicide of a person meaning anyone who accompanies their relative could face 14 years in prison.

An estimated 540 people from the UK have ended their own lives at the clinic over the last 20 years – a figure which accounts for more than one in seven of all the deaths it has enabled. The average cost of travelling to Switzerland for an assisted death is now roughly £15,000.

Dumping ground

Mr Malone, 71, from Northumberland, told The Telegraph the Swiss “don’t really want us using them as a dumping ground for moral problems – and you can see their point.”

The 71-year-old said his sister’s experience of watching their father die of pancreatic cancer “the recommended way” led to her decision to end her own life.

He said: “He [my father] actually asked me to put poison in his water, but I didn’t actually have the means or the b---s to help him.

“We sat by his bedside for five weeks, and we just prayed for his heart to stop.

“His death was just awful – it’s why Trudi decided to go out that way – she wasn’t going to follow him.”

Dignitas has previously accused the UK of “violating citizens’ human rights to have this choice at home”.

Last year, Silvan Luley, a team member from Dignitas, gave evidence to MPs as part of a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying, which is currently illegal in the UK.

Mr Luley said: “Our aim is to become unnecessary. If the UK makes a law that allows people who have access to the last human right – and the best thing would be to come as close to the Swiss model as possible – then no one from the UK would ever have to come to Dignitas in Switzerland again.”

In December, Dame Esther Rantzen sparked a national conversation by revealing she had joined Dignitas. She said she is considering assisted dying if her condition does not improve after treatment for lung cancer.

She called for MPs to be given a free vote on changing the rules about assisted dying as she believed it was “important that the law catches up with what the country wants”.

Sir Keir Starmer has said he would set aside parliamentary time to change the law on assisted dying.

The Church of England has warned that countries where assisted dying is legal have shown that it can lead to a “slippery slope” where it becomes easier and easier to get help to end one’s life.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “The UK can no longer outsource dying to Switzerland.

“This option is only available to dying Britons who have the funds and physical strength to travel, with those who don’t left to suffer potentially painful deaths at home or take matters into their own hands, often alone and in secret.”