Living in America and Dying with Dignity in Europe
Frontline: The Suicide Tourist
PBS (March 02, 2010)
Assisted Suicide Guidelines: Family Can Still Face Prosecution
Sandra Laville, The Guardian (February 25, 2010)
Frontline, the documentary film unit for the Public Broadcasting Service in America, just premiered a really important new program. The film follows an American, Craig Ewert, as he decides to end his life at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. What is unique about this storyline is that it focuses on an American going to Dignitas, which isn’t that common. To date, thirteen US citizens have ended their lives at Dignitas (as opposed to 135 Brits and 563 Germans).
The cultural, political and social issues surrounding Dignitas have been an ongoing topic in the United Kingdom, which makes the timing of Frontline’s documentary all the more uncanny. Last week, the Director of Public Prosecutions for the UK (Keir Starmer) published new guidelines for assisted suicide. Over the years, many people have wondered if “assisting” someone commit suicide included, say, going to Dignitas with the person. So much confusion has surrounded this UK law that short of actually changing it (which will eventually happen) the guidelines were published to help define whom the law can and cannot prosecute.
I have written extensively about the assisted dying debates in the UK on Death Ref (indeed, my first post was on an assisted dying case) and you can find a plethora of information in the Assisted Suicide section and the Death + the Law section.
As a final point of interest, the state of Oregon has published its 2008 Summary of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and you can see how people have used the law there to die.
In the end, the law will be changed in the UK and it will resemble Oregon’s law.