Mother and son held over ‘Swiss suicide clinic trip’

The Dignitas clinic in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland. Picture: Getty
The Dignitas clinic in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland. Picture: Getty
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A 65-YEAR-OLD woman and her son have been arrested after police suspected they were planning to take her husband to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to help him take his own life, sources said.

The pensioner and the 25-year-old, from the Chichester area of West Sussex, were held on suspicion of encouraging or assisting a suicide.

Details about the condition of the 71-year-old man have not been disclosed and none of the family have been named by Sussex Police.

But the force confirmed that officers were having the mental capacity of the “vulnerable” man assessed to determine how able he is to make decisions for himself. Both the woman and her son have been freed on police bail until 8 October following their arrest on 8 August.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Police have been made aware of suggestions that a man and a woman from West Sussex could be planning to take a vulnerable pensioner to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland so that he can end his life.

“Officers are currently having the mental capacity of the vulnerable 71-year-old assessed to determine how able he is to make decisions for himself.

“A 25-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman from the Chichester area were arrested on Thursday, 8 August, on suspicion of encouraging or assisting a suicide.

“Both have been released on bail without charge until 8 October while officers carry out further inquiries.

“It is an offence to encourage or assist suicide under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and officers are investigating whether any crime has been committed or is likely to be committed if they do not take action.”

Guidelines were issued in February 2010 by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, QC which clarified the position on assisted suicide.

It was indicated that anyone acting with compassion to help end the life of someone who has decided they cannot go on would be unlikely to face criminal charges.

There is no crime of assisted suicide in Scotland but, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, the law of homicide may apply.

Assisted suicide remains a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but individual decisions on prosecution are now made on the circumstances in each case.

Dignitas is a Switzerland-based assisted dying group which over the past 14 years has helped more than 1,100 people to die. More than 150 Britons have chosen to die at its clinic in Zurich.