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Swiss group Dignitas calls for assisted dying to be legalised in Ireland

SWISS ORGANISATION DIGNITAS has called for the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying in Ireland, claiming that it would “soothe suffering” and improve quality of life among certain patients here.

The group, which provides “physician-supported accompanied suicide” to its members in Switzerland, is appearing at the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying this morning.

Assisted dying has been legal in Switzerland since 1942.

The committee is currently examining whether to introduce voluntary assisted dying laws in Ireland, following the passage of a bill tabled by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny in 2020. 

Dignitas will tell TDs that its Irish membership grew from 57 to 80 between 2020 and last year, and that an Irish person travelled to Switzerland to end their life as recently as 2020.

“Voluntary assisted dying should be legalised as a choice for the Irish alongside other options to soothe suffering and improving quality of life, may it be palliative care, hospice work, suicide attempt prevention, good care in old age, and more,” Dignitas’ Silvian Luley said in his opening statement to the committee.

He added: “It’s not about making use of this option right away but having an emergency exit door which provides emotional relief and can prevent people from having to use rough methods.

“They should have what everyone deserves: a legal way to exercise the human right of freedom of choice on all options of professional care to soothe suffering and end life, at their home.”

Dutch academic Professor Theo Boer is also before the committee this morning, and has raised concerns about the expansion of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

Euthanasia, the practice where a second person ends the life of an individual for medical reasons, has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002.

Boer told the committee that euthanasia has made ageing and dying “a task to be managed” and that euthanasia has “sky-rocketed” in the Netherlands in recent years.

“The legalisation of euthanasia has done much more than just providing some citizens the liberty to take a way out,” he said.

“It turned the whole landscape of dying, including our view of illness, suffering, ageing, and care-dependence upside down.”

He added that assisted deaths account for 15% to 20% of all deaths in some parts of the Netherlands, and claimed the reason why the national average is still at 5.2% nationally is because some rural areas have an average of around 2%.