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Federal court Assisted suicide organisation Dignitas rebuffed


Swiss lawyer Ludwig Minelli advocates that every healthy or sick person should have the right to end his or her life

(Keystone)

Ludwig Minelli, founder of assisted suicide organisation Dignitas, has been rebuffed by the Swiss Federal Court. Minelli had filed trespassing charges against civil servants who refused to leave until an unconscious woman was taken to hospital.

The court decided that there would be no criminal proceedings against seven members of canton Zurich’s prosecution, police and forensic medicine teams. In August 2012, they were called to a house in Pfäffikon for a legal inspection involving a person who had committed assisted suicide. In another room, they noticed a second person who was not dying as expected but gasping for air.

The civil servants decided to take the 67-year-old woman – who weighed about 35 kilogrammes as a result of a severe congenital disease – to the hospital, where she received painkillers and died the same day. The government employees stayed at the house owned by Dignitas until the paramedics arrived to take her to the clinic.

Minelli, who repeatedly asked the civil servants to leave his house, reported them for criminal trespassing because they had failed to leave the property.

As criminal proceedings against the prosecution require a judicial authorisation, the Federal Court dealt with the matter. Canton Zurich’s highest court already addressed the case and rejected Minelli’s complaint.

In its verdict on Wednesday, the Federal Court in Lausanne concluded that it is understandable that the people present had assumed that something had gone wrong in the case of the second accompanied suicide, and that they had tried to uphold the rights of the unconscious woman. The judges said that by virtue of their function it was correct to stay in the Dignitas house and take measures to protect her.

The court rejected the complaint from Minelli, who will have to pay the court fees of CHF3,000 ($3,126). The Federal Court already rebuffed Minelli this past February. In a second complaint, Minelli had accused the authorities of unlawfully interfering with an assisted suicide.

Since 1942, Switzerland has not prosecuted assisted suicide executed for non-selfish motives. Organisations like EXIT offer accompanied suicide for Swiss residents. Dignitas, the largest association offering assisted suicide to non-residents, registered about 200 cases in 2012. Dignitas is the most militant one; it is known to fight for the right to die and to take legal action.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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