Dying in Zurich?

03 Mar 2015

dying in Zurich

It was reported in the newpapers over the weekend that Fritz J. Raddatz, the former literary critic of Die Zeit, had “died in Zurich” and I immediately suspected that he had organised his own assisted suicide as he had been an advocate for euthanasia

In the UK if an obituary says “died in Zurich” the suspicion is that they have travelled there to go to the Dignitas Clinic where they take advantage of the law in Switzerland on Euthanasia

Different types of Euthanasia

The laws on Euthanasia are different in different countries but they are commonly split up into different types:

type definition
1 Voluntary euthanasia where it is conducted with the consent of the patient
2 Non-voluntary euthanasia where the consent cannot be obtained or under the law cannot be given for example being in a persistent vegetative state or child euthanasia
3 Involuntary euthanasia where it is conducted against the will of the patient

These classifications are often split into two different kinds of euthanasia

type definition
a active euthanasia which entails the use of lethal substances or forces, such as administering a lethal injection, to kill and is the most controversial means.
b passive euthanasia which entails the withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life.

This framework is commonly used to define what is legal and illegal in different countries as well as the issue of financial gain from the death – if there is gain by the person administering the leathal injection as in the case of Harold Shipman a doctor in the North of England who seems to have preyed on old ladies and got them to change their wills and then given them a lethal injection and signed the death certificate as natural causes – he was tried for murder after the discovery of what he had been doing.

In Germany under the Nazis there had been the Action T4 where people deemed unfit by the Nazi ragime where killed by lethal injection or gassed. Because of this active involuntary euthanasia programme which can be seen as a dry run for the larger and just as horrific mass exterminations of Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, homosexuals and political opponents of the regime – euthanasia was for many years after World War II off the agenda in Western Europe.

A plea from a senior member of the Church of Scotland on this issue

In the UK assisting suicide is still a criminal offence though the laws of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are different. The general practice has been that those who assist people in traveling to Switzerland for Euthanasia, doctors who administer larger than usual doses of pain-killers near the end of life or those who remove the feeding tube from a patient are not charged especially when there is no financial benefit to them.

However it is dependent on the good will of the law officials and that is a problem so Very Reverend Sandy McDonald who is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis where scar tissue is filling his lungs has asked the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (also known as The Kirk) to consider thoughtfully its position on assisted suicide.

The Very Reverend Sandy McDonald is the father of the actor David Tennant who is famous in the UK as he played the television character Doctor Who in his tenth incarnation from 2005 – 2010.

We looked at two newspaper articles about the same topic one from a London based newspaper the Independent and the second from a Scottish newspaper – the Daily Record

Here are the texts in PDF format and direct links to the stories:

Independent Daily Record
link link

Please note that the typo in the Daily Record article has been corrected.

Other cases

There are other cases where the question of “assisted suicide” has been addressed

Next week

Next Monday is the fiftieth anniversary of the second attempt to start the Selma-Montgomery Civil Rights March which led to some landmark legislation in the USA.