The founder of the Swiss physician-assisted suicide organisation Dignitas went on trial last Friday, on charges of profiteering and exploiting patients’ suffering for his own benefit. In Switzerland, providing assisted suicide services is legal as long as it is not done for “self-serving” motives. The case against Ludwig Minelli concerns the assisted suicide of an 80-year-old German woman who had left Dignitas 100,000 Swiss francs in her will. The woman was not terminally ill, and three Swiss doctors declined to help her die, before Minelli – a qualified lawyer – found a fourth. He is also accused of overcharging two other German women: a mother and her daughter, they had paid about 11,000 Swiss francs each, which is approximately twice the going rate. (The Week)

Everywhere you look you find people cheating! For some reason I imagined the Swiss to have more probity than others, and the doctors who helped those sincerely wishing to die I imagined to be full of the milk of human kindness (not, regrettably, available in your local supermarket). Instead, it appears that even the activities of Dignitas are alledgedly soiled by human greed and the exploitation of the old and weak. The increased acceptance of elective death has increased revenue for the service and has thus drawn the attention of the dishonest and the profiteers.

Given proper legal safeguards from just the type of story above, I support the right of all people to die in a civilised and way if they wish to be free of pain and misery. Our lives are our lives. They are the one thing uniquely ours, whether one is rich or poor. No priest or other busybody has the moral right to intervene, least of all jet-setting pastors. Unfortunately, this incident empowers the “sanctity of life at all costs” message of opponents of elective death, which is a shame, because the idea is legal in so few places and ought to be more generally available.

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