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Terminally ill Canadian woman travels to Switzerland for assisted suicide

Thaddeus Baklinski
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WINNIPEG, April 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In what she hopes will be a final statement in support of assisted suicide legislation in Canada, a Winnipeg woman has very publicly departed to the Dignitas suicide “clinic” in Zurich, where she intends to kill herself.

Susan Griffiths, 72, suffers from multiple system atrophy (MSA), a degenerative disease that will leave her significantly disabled before she dies. She left for Europe on Saturday amidsdt heavy media coverage.

Griffiths also left behind a letter, to be delivered to members of Parliament, where she urges them to legalize assisted suicide, and describes her illness as "a life sentence."

"Life expectancy with MSA, an incurable condition, is about 10 years. I would eventually lie in bed heavily sedated, with mechanical contrivances and shifts of impersonal caregivers tending to my every bodily function, I have chosen not to live with this life sentence," Griffiths' letter reads, according to a Winnipeg Free Press report. 

She adds that if assisted suicide was available in Canada she would want to live another two years, but feels compelled to kill herself now while she is still able to travel to the Zurich suicide clinic.

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Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has responded that Griffiths' plea for assisted death ignores the dangers inherent in legalizing assisted suicide.

"I understand the feelings that Griffiths has and I understand her fear of living with disabilities," Schadenberg added, "but her condition and her story are only part of the assisted dying debate and her condition is not a reason to legally permit physicians to lethally inject or to prescribe suicide for their patients."

"The law prohibiting assisted suicide is designed to protect people. Every nation has laws that protect people from homicide (murder) and nearly every nation has laws that protect people from other people assisting their suicide. These are good laws because they protect people, in their time of need." 

He said that in jurisdictions where assisted death has been legalized, an increasing number of people are being killed without consent, while others have been coerced, to "choose" to die. 

"In Switzerland, where Griffiths will die, the assisted death law lacks effective safeguards to protect people from abuse. Further to that, the Dignitas suicide clinic, that Griffiths will die at, has been implicated for significant abuse," Schadenberg said. 

In 2010, LSN reported that Dignitas was under investigation after local authorities discovered 300 urns containing human ashes dumped into Lake Zurich. 

In a candid exposé of the reality of death at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, Paul Clifford, a man from South London whose mother, Maxine Coombes, committed suicide at the Dignitas facility, described the family’s experience as “terrible” and likened the flat where his mother died to a “backstreet abortion place.” 

In Belgium and the Netherlands where assisted death is legal, studies have proven that the safeguards are often ignored, that the law is abused and people are being killed without request. 

Recent studies concerning the Belgian euthanasia and assisted death laws found that, despite purported "safeguards," 32% of the assisted deaths were done without request and 47% of the assisted deaths were unreported, while nurses, who are prohibited from doing euthanasia, are in fact euthanizing patients in Belgium. 

"The law prohibiting assisted suicide is designed to protect people,” said Schadenberg. “Every nation has laws that protect people from homicide (murder) and nearly every nation has laws that protect people from other people assisting their suicide. These are good laws because they protect people, in their time of need." 

"Countries need to protect citizens by maintaining their laws that protect people from euthanasia and assisted suicide."

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