The UK has the third highest number of people registered with the Swiss suicide agency Dignitas, a BBC 5live investigation has found. The number of Britons on the group’s list has risen to 725, behind only Switzerland and Germany. Dignitas says they have paid a fee, allowing them to book a date to travel to the country to end their lives.
There have so far been no prosecutions of relatives of 101 UK citizens who have used Dignitas’ services. In Switzerland it is legal to aid a suicide, provided it has not been carried out for a profit. It is illegal in the UK and anyone convicted faces up to 14 years in prison.
Last month, a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis lost her High Court attempt to clarify UK law on assisted suicide. Debbie Purdy, 45, from Bradford, suggested that in future she may want to travel to Dignitas to die and wanted her husband by her side. She sought clarification on whether he would be prosecuted on his return home. But two senior judges said the current guidelines were adequate and did not require clarification.
While there have been no prosecutions to date, the Director of Public Prosecutions has carried out investigations. An investigation is currently under way into the death of Daniel James – the last Briton to die having enlisted Dignitas’ help. The 23-year-old, from Worcester, was paralysed in a rugby accident and ended his life last month even though he was not terminally ill. His parents are being investigated by police and a report will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The Bible forbids suicide (which is essentially self-murder) in the commandment, ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13).