Thursday, January 29, 2009

'Dignitas is an organisation that must be stopped'

So says Soraya Wernli, a nurse and former employee of the Swiss suicide business. A believer in assisted suicide, Mrs Wernli worked for Dignitas for a number of years, latterly as a police informer, passing on information about Ludwig Minelli's dubious practices. She was so appalled by the abuses she came across that she is now determined to expose Dignitas to the widest possible audience and get it shut down.

In the interview she gave to a British newspaper, she described being told to sort through sackfuls of personal possessions from dead clients which were sold on to secondhand shops and pawnbrokers; she describes the filthy room in which people died and Minelli's evident lack of concern for the individuals concerned. She could not recall a single time when a doctor refused to prescribe the fatal drugs after the perfunctory interview with the client and admitted that vulnerable people were rushed through the process as quickly as possible, being given the drugs to take just hours after they had arrived in the country so that they would be unable to think over their decision.

Mrs Wernli's most harrowing experience involved watching a man using a faulty 'suicide machine' which failed to kill him. It took 48 hours for him to die, writhing and frothing at the mouth in terrible agony.

There is little in this disturbing interview that will surprise those of us who have campaigned against assisted dying for years, except perhaps the fact that the nurse still believes in it after the terrible abuses she has witnessed. This is where we part company. The problem is not just with corrupt organisations like Dignitas it is with assisted suicide itself, which by its very nature preys upon the fears and uncertainties of the most vulnerable people. Dignitas must certainly be stopped, but so too must dangerous legislation that facilitates such abuses.