Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas helped 217 Britons to die in ten years

THE Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas has ended the lives of 217 people from Britain, The Scotsman has learned.

THE Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas has ended the lives of 217 people from Britain, The Scotsman has learned.

It is understood that the clinic will announced the figure today as it marks a decade in existence ahead of a right-to-die summit in Edinburgh on 2 November.

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The international gathering is being organised by the Independent MSP Margo McDonald, who is putting together a bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland, and will be held at the Royal Society.

Ms MacDonald, who has said she wants the right to end her life if her Parkinson’s disease becomes unbearable, has said that she wants to have a situation where Scots in her position do not need to travel to Switzerland to end their lives.

Her second bill on the issue is expected to be tabled in spring Holyrood next year.

She said: “I expect to have a lot more support from MSPs this time. What we want is that people in Scotland can die in dignity in their own homes and not have to travel to Switzerland to do it.”

It is understood that the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland has more than 900 Britons on its books and has ended more than 20 lives a year on average since it was set up ten years ago.

The clinic yesterday did not comment, and have specific Scottish figures but is expected to make a statement today.

Last year Strathclyde Police looked into the death of Robert Cowie from Glasgow, who died at the clinic aged 33 after being taken to Switzerland by his mother Helen, who said he had “a peaceful ending”.

Mr Cowie had been paralysed in a swimming accident. The police brought no charges in the case.

The new figures from Dignitas and progress of Ms MacDonald’s latest bill has led anti-assisted suicide campaigners to warn against a change in the law.

A spokesman for umbrella group Care Not Killing, which includes the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said: “This is a deeply depressing milestone, that Dignitas and those campaigning for a change in the law appear to be revelling in.

“There are very few people travelling from Scotland to Dignitas and these deaths make up a tiny proportion of those who die in Scotland and more widely in the UK.

“As Dignitas has admitted, around one fifth of those who have ended their life in their facility, are simply ‘weary of life’.”

The spokesman went on: “The current law, which has been debated half a dozen times in the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments in recent years, exists to protect the vulnerable and disabled, who do not have a voice of their own.

“The law as it stands is supported by every major disability rights group and every doctors group, including the BMA and all the royal colleges.”