by Hilary White

ZURICH, April 18, 2006 ( – Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, an assisted suicide “clinic” in Zurich has announced that he is planning on opening a chain of suicide facilities in Switzerland. So popular has his death service become that at least 42 Britons have gone there to commit suicide.

Under British law, aiding a person’s suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but there is no way officials can stop anyone from going to Switzerland where laws allow it.

Minelli told Sunday Times Magazine this weekend, “We never say no.”

“Even those suffering from Alzheimer’s will have lucid moments in which they may choose to die once a certain point has been reached, such as when they can no longer recognise their children.”

Even the seriously clinically depressed would not be turned away, despite the success of drug therapies and the fact that suicidal intentions are a symptom of the illness. Minelli confirmed that his facility would be willing to serve those who have been clinically depressed for at least 10-12 years.

Minelli said that the desire to restrict assisted suicide only to the terminally ill was “a British obsession,” and that he had no problems helping people suffering from depression commit suicide. He said, however, that he would draw the line with those who suffer only from short-term bouts of depression.

Dr. Peter Saunders, general secretary of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Times, “Minelli does not understand that attempting suicide is a call for help. Once the physical and psycho-spiritual needs are met the desire for suicide tends to go away.”

“It is laughable to suggest that someone with Alzheimer’s, who cannot remember two minutes later what they told you, could have the capacity to understand and weigh up and make a decision on suicide. The potential for abuse is horrendous.”

Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) said that Minelli’s facilities are a direct threat to the lives of vulnerable ill, elderly and disabled people from all over Europe. Unlike most countries, Switzerland has never had a law making suicide illegal and Minelli’s Zurich facility can only exist as long as Swiss lawmakers maintain the status quo. Minelli’s clinic has pioneered “suicide tourism” with people coming to kill themselves from countries where assisted suicide is illegal.

EPC Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, told that countries need to start putting diplomatic pressure on Switzerland to make assisted suicide a crime. “The problem is that he hasn’t been stopped by anyone either in Switzerland or England or anywhere else,” Schadenberg said.

“Countries need to take this problem seriously as a threat to their vulnerable citizens. There needs to be international pressure to make Switzerland criminalize assisted suicide as it is in other countries or this man will continue to take advantage of the weakness of people in need,” Schadenberg said.