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British travel restrictions for Switzerland make planning-assisted suicides "impossible", say activists


Travel restrictions on British travelers returning from Switzerland could make planning assisted deaths "nearly impossible" for terminally ill patients and force loved ones to grieve in isolation, activists said.

Travelers coming to England from Switzerland after 4 a.m. on Saturday are required to self-isolate for 14 days, a rule that was also enforced in Scotland last week.

Dignity in Dying said the rule change announced late Thursday for England had made terminally ill patients "impossible" to plan a trip to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Traveling to Switzerland for a legally assisted death requires months of “careful planning, often in secret”, and travel restrictions that “change from day to day” make it even more difficult for terminally ill patients.

Dignity in Dying said UK travel restrictions requiring passengers to return from Switzerland to self-isolate could make planning an assisted death "nearly impossible" (file photo)

The nonprofit added that the rule change could force relatives and loved ones to 14 days of isolated mourning upon their return to England.

Jane Parker was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in October 2019 and had considered traveling to the clinic for an assisted death illegal in the UK.

The 68 year old, who lives in Devon with her husband Adrian, said, “I cannot speak now and swallowing has become very difficult as the muscles continue to weaken.

“I don't want to suffer a protracted, traumatic death, but my options have been severely limited, especially since the lockdown.

"Traveling to Switzerland for a legally assisted death, for example, is becoming even more difficult, especially as these recently announced quarantine and travel restrictions change virtually every week."

Ms. Parker, who has three daughters and three grandchildren, said, “I want to die at home and am seriously considering the idea of ​​turning down food and water – a legal option under current law.

"How can we allow people to starve and dehydrate to death, but not let someone slip away quickly and peacefully in their sleep?"

The nonprofit said traveling to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland requires months of "careful planning" and travel restrictions that "change from day to day" make it more difficult (file photo)

The nonprofit said traveling to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland requires months of "careful planning" and travel restrictions that "change from day to day" make it more difficult (file photo)

Ellie Ball, Manager of the Dignity in Dying Campaign, said, “It's just another source of concern about an option that is already so difficult.

“For those who have the resources and the strength to make use of this choice, it will take many months of careful planning, often in secret. With travel restrictions changing from day to day, planning is next to impossible.

"And for loved ones returning to the UK … imagine losing a loved one, leaving your body in a foreign country, and then dealing with your grief all by yourself with your support network?"

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Ball said one Brit per week had traveled to Switzerland because of an assisted death.

She added that around 300 terminally ill people in the UK end their own lives each year, often with "multiple, incredibly traumatic attempts".

Dignity in Dying said the average cost of £ 10,000 at Dignitas makes the possibility of dying out of reach for some people.

Dignity in Dying said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, one British person was traveling to Switzerland every week for an assisted death (file photo)

Dignity in Dying said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, one British person was traveling to Switzerland every week for an assisted death (file photo)

Ms. Ball said the best solution would be for assisted death options to become available to "terminally ill, mentally competent people" in the UK in recent months.

Under UK law, those who end their lives can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

The government ruled out changing the assisted death law in 2019 following the high profile case of Anne Whaley.

Ms. Whaley, then 76, was interviewed by police to end his life in Switzerland with her 80-year-old husband Geoff Whaley, who had motor neuron disease, ahead of a planned trip to Switzerland.

Prior to his death, Mr Whaley told the Times that the stress of police involvement "destroyed everything we did to prepare".

Where is euthanasia legal in Europe and the US?

  • Assisted death is understood to mean both voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted death. These two types of assisted death distinguish a difference in the degree of physician involvement.
  • Only three countries in Europe are in favor of euthanasia overall: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
  • The first two even recognize requests from minors under strict circumstances, while Luxembourg excludes them from the legislation.
  • Switzerland, Germany, Finland and Austria allow doctor-assisted death under certain circumstances.
  • Countries such as Spain, Sweden, England, Italy, Hungary and Norway allow passive euthanasia under severe circumstances.
  • Passive euthanasia is when a patient has an incurable disease and chooses not to use life-prolonging treatments such as artificial nutrition or hydration.
  • Doctor suicide is legal in seven states and the District of Columbia. It is an option granted by law to individuals in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. This is an option granted by court order to individuals in Montana.

Sources: Euronews and CNN

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