More evidence of pressing need of right to die legislation as new study shows number of people seeking an assisted death in Switzerland doubles within four years

21 August, 2014

The number of people going to Switzerland for an assisted death has doubled in the past four years. A study published today in the Journal of Medical Ethics shows that British citizens account for much of that increase with neurological conditions, such paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis, accounting for almost half of the cases. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has long campaigned for the right to die with dignity and has been party to the right to die cases of ‘locked-in syndrome’ sufferers Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, has called for urgent action from Parliament to legislate on this increasingly pressing issue.

The new study shows who was opting to go to Switzerland to end their lives, and whether the availability of suicide tourism in Switzerland had prompted changes in the law on assisted suicide elsewhere. 611 people who were not resident in Switzerland had been helped to die between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom had gone to Dignitas. Their ages ranged from 23 to 97, with the average being 69. In all, residents from 31 different countries were helped to die in Switzerland between 2008 and 2012, with German (268) and UK (126) nationals making up almost two thirds of the total.

In a Supreme Court ruling on the Nicklinson and Lamb right to die cases in June, the judges took the opportunity of the judgement to say that they were looking to Parliament to reconsider the question of assisted dying in order to resolve what is clearly a pressing public issue: the future treatment of people who have made a settled and informed decision to end their life, but because they are incapable, need the assistance of a third party in order to do so.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, commented ‘We cannot go on exporting our suffering people to Switzerland to die in clinical environments far from home. We must instead face up to our moral responsibilities as a society and change our law to respect the choice of a person.

‘It is what the overwhelming majority of British people want to see and simple compassion as well as democracy should spur politicians into action to catch up with public opinion even at this late stage’.


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

Public link to Journal of Medical Ethics research:

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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.