Doctor cleared in death of British assisted suicide companion

Only one of the women was planning to die. (archive photo) © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Zurich’s public prosecutor has dropped the case of the doctor charged with negligence in the death of a British woman who had accompanied her elderly mother for an assisted suicide in Switzerland.

This content was published on November 24, 2019 - 18:54
NZZ am Sonntag/sm

In March, the Federal Supreme Court had upheld an earlier verdict of involuntary manslaughter.

But as the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday, the prosecutor said that the doctor could not be blamed for any breach of duty or deliberate carelessness. Moreover, there was no evidence of causality between his actions and the death of the patient.

Vomiting, then comatose

The tragedy took place in October 2016 at a Zurich-area apartment provided by Dignitas, an assisted suicide organization. It was here that the 95-year-old mother, who was seriously ill, voluntarily ended her life. She and her 58-year-old daughter had travelled from Britain for this purpose.

But the daughter fell ill at the apartment, vomiting for half an hour before a Dignitas staff member called for a doctor. A sedative was administered, but some hours later the woman experienced breathing difficulties before collapsing into a coma. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

A post-mortem examination found that the woman had suffered a brain haemorrhage – a result of malformed blood vessels that could have resulted in bleeding at any time.

The Zurich prosecutor dropped the case in September and the decision is now final. The doctor will receive compensation of CHF8,500 ($8,523) reported the NZZ am Sonntag.

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