Euthanasia 'tourists' could face €35,000 suicide tax
Published 23/01/2010 | 05:00
Patients who travel to Switzerland to die in Zurich's suicide clinics could face a €35,000 death tax.
Right-wing Swiss politicians, concerned over what they see as death tourism, want groups such as Dignitas to pay large fines for helping anyone who has not lived in Zurich for at least a year to die.
A referendum on the proposal will be held later this year. If more than 50 per cent of the electorate vote in favour, it could become law.
At present, Dignitas charges about £5,000 (€5,700) to organise a suicide. The fine could be six times that and Swiss politicians believe it would be incorporated into the fee charged to the person ending their life.
To date, hundreds of people worldwide have been assisted by Dignitas to end their own lives since it opened 11 years ago -- at least three of them from Ireland and 100 from Britain. Several hundred more are believed to be on its waiting list. In Britain anyone who aids a suicide can be jailed for up to 14 years.
Daniel Suter, Zurich president of the Swiss Federal Democratic Union Party (EDU) which is behind the vote, said: "Normally people come to Zurich two or three days before they want to die.
"By saying that people must live in Zurich for at least a year, we believe this will cut down the number of suicides dramatically. There needs to be an end to death tourism.
"We anticipate the fine will be passed on to the person committing suicide by the suicide organisation."
The news was welcomed by anti-euthanasia groups in Britain, who suggested the vote could influence policy-makers there who are under pressure to change the law.
New prosecutor guidelines, making it easier for seriously-ill people to be helped commit suicide in England and Wales, will be published by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, by the end of March.
Peter Saunders, a spokesman for Care Not Killing, said the vote was evidence of a "growing public backlash" against suicide tourism in Switzerland.
The EDU obtained more than 6,000 signatures from supporters, the number required to start the referendum process. A vote was put to Zurich's parliament, in which more than the required one-third of MPs voted for a referendum, which will be held on November 28.
The founder of Dignitas, Ludwig Minelli, said he was confident "nothing will happen". He said even if the electorate voted in favour of the proposal, legally there would be a number of challenges under federal law and under the European Convention on Human Rights. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)