Continuing legality of assisted suicide in Switzerland is not an excuse to stop reform in the UK

‘The people of Zurich’s vote to continue allowing visitors from abroad to gain end of life assistance does not diminish the need for urgent reform in the UK’, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has argued in light of a number of significant recent developments in the ongoing debate over the reform of the law concerning assisted dying. 

The Swiss region of Zurich, home to the Dignitas Clinic where more than 150 UK citizens have sought end of life assistance, voted on Sunday in favour of continuing to allow non-residents to access assistance to end their lives. 

The referendum in Switzerland follows weeks of sustained coverage on the issue of assisted dying, including the police dropping charges against two individuals from Tyneside accused of assisting a suicide, and Margo Macdonald, one of the most active politicians advocating reform, including tabling a private members bill on the subject, was returned to the Scottish Parliament. 

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs commented on recent developments: ‘The need for reform is no less pressing as a result of the vote in Switzerland; it is not acceptable that this difficult ethical issue is essentially exported, and only those few terminally ill or incurably suffering individuals with the means to travel to a clinic in Switzerland are able to end their lives with dignity at a time of their choosing’

Ms Phillips continued ‘The BHA is at the forefront of campaigning for ethical reform that respects the autonomy of the terminally ill and incurably suffering individuals who have a settled and clear wish to end their lives. We have recently submitted evidence to the Commission on Assisted Dying, which is considering this issue in considerable depth, and we hope that conclusions of the review will go some way to encouraging the formulation of enlightened and compassionate legislation with appropriate safeguards.’  

Notes: 

For further comment or information contact Naomi Phillips at [email protected] or 020 7079 3585.

Read the BHA’s Submission to the Commission on Assisted Dying and Chief Executive Andrew Copson’s oral evidence (PDF)

Visit the website for the Commission on Assisted Dying

See the BHA campaigns page on assisted dying