April 18, 2024

Dignitas finds new home in Zurich

Assisted suicide group settles into old bowling ball factory
BBCAfter being ostracised by neighbours and municipalities, the Swiss assisted suicide group Dignitas has found a home in a former bowling ball factory near Zurich. It was forced to leave a block of flats in September because other residents complained about sharing elevators with body bags. Authorities in the small town of Schwerzenbach also tried to keep Dignitas out, but a court has allowed it, pending a final decision. "If you look at if from the outside, it’s a commercial building, but inside the two rooms we use are very cosy, " the director of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, told a press briefing in London recently. He had been invited by the Glasgow group Friends at the End (FATE), which is run by former family planning doctor Libby Wilson. She advises people who are thinking of travelling to Zurich in order to end their lives with the help of Dignitas. 

Despite the controversy, the Swiss seem to take a quiet pride in the notoriety of Dignitas. According to the Swiss information office, Sterbtourismus, or death tourism, has been selected as "word of the year" in German-speaking Switzerland. This is an industry created by Dignitas. Since it was launched in 1998, it has helped more than 800 foreigners to commit suicide. The "unword" of the year prize for a "crassly inappropriate" term, by the way, is Klimacompensation, or climate compensation. This refers to the practice of indulging in big carbon footprint consumption, but offsetting it with tree-planting in a distant Third World country. ~ BMJ, Dec 8; SwissInfo, Dec 6