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Assisted Suicide Campaigner Hopes To Help Those With Mental Illness To Kill Themselves, Too
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 28, 2006

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND--The head of a Swiss clinic that has helped hundreds of people with terminal illnesses to kill themselves told a Brighton audience last week that the laws should be changed to help people with mental illnesses to do the same.

Ludwig Minelli said laws in the United Kingdom that make it a crime to assist in a suicide have prompted 54 people from England and Wales to travel to Switzerland to die with the help of his organization, Dignitas, since it was founded eight years ago. Several were not in the final stages of terminal illness, but instead had disabilities or were worried that they might become dependent on others.

In April 2003, Robert and Jennifer Stokes died by swallowing lethal doses of drugs supplied by Dignitas in a Zurich "death room". Mr. Stokes, 59, had epilepsy and depression while Mrs. Stokes, 53, had diabetes, multiple sclerosis and had used a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury. An inquest later found that Dignitas violated its own rules and Swiss law when it allowed the British couple to kill themselves at its clinic.

In his first presentation in the United Kingdom, Mr. Minelli said that his organization was challenging Switzerland's law in its Supreme Court, by helping a Swiss citizen with bipolar disorder who lived abroad to die.

Minelli said in April that he plans to open a chain of trendy assisted suicide centers.

The BBC reported that when Minelli was asked whether there were any circumstances in which he would refuse to help somebody to die, especially considering that some people with depression might make decisions they would regret, he replied: "I would never say no. I would say perhaps."

Disability rights groups have opposed attempts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, citing situations in which people with physical and mental disabilities have been pressured to take their own lives or have been killed by others. Governments that have allowed assisted suicide have included guidelines to restrict the ability of people with mental illness -- or who do not have an incurable condition -- to receive help in dying.

In May of this year, a parliamentary attempt to make assisted suicide legal in the United Kingdom was blocked in the House of Lords. It is expected to be reintroduced for a vote in the near future.

Related:
"Depressed 'could get help to die'" (BBC News)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5364400.stm
"Assisted Suicide Campaigner: It's Time To Help People With Depression To Kill Themselves" April 24, 2006 (Inclusion Daily Express)
http://www.inclusiondaily.com/archives/06/04/24/042406swdignitas.htm

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