The similarities between the “suicide tourism” ongoing in Switzerland and Jack Kevorkian’s death circus are just too striking to ignore. Both involved depressed people with disabilities, people with terminal illnesses, and some people who are not ill at all traveling from their homes to be made dead with the participation of strangers. Both involved publicity hungry vultures, Kevorkian and Dignitas’ Ludwig Minelli (among others), who use their ghoulish fame to push a death on demand agenda.
Here’s a difference: Kevorkian helped kill for free, while Minelli’s group charges about $8000 to be made dead. On the other hand, Kevorkian’s goal, as described in Prescription Medicide, was to conduct medical experiments on living people being euthanized, a proposed process Kevorkian called “obitiatry.” Minelli seems content to count the money and pat himself on the back for his compassion.
Kevorkian is out of business now, getting $50,000 a kill, er I mean, a speech. But the Swiss government is apparently embarrassed by all of the publicity suicide tourism is garnering, culminating last week in the televised assisted suicide of Craig Ewert. So now, it is considering slamming the door on foreigners coming to Switzerland in a plane, with the plan of being returned home in a pine box.
At least that is the talk. But it sounds more like feckless hand-wringing to me. From the story:
Critics accuse it of turning Switzerland into a magnet for “suicide tourism” and of operating on the fringes of medical ethics and public opinion. Dr. Bertrand Kiefer, editor in chief of the Revue Medicale Suisse, a medical journal, fears some people are killing themselves not to escape intolerable suffering but to relieve family or society of a burden. Dignitas says its members’ right to self-determination is paramount. The only criteria for assisting a suicide are that the person “suffers from an illness that inevitably leads to death, or from an unacceptable disability, and wants to end their life and suffering voluntarily.”
Good grief. As regular readers of SHS and my other work know, in no jurisdiction where it is legal, is assisted suicide or euthanasia restricted in practice to people with unrelievable suffering. That is just a talking point to get society to swallow the hemlock.
Oh well, at least the Swiss are , sort of, expressing their concern:
A small religious party is campaigning to ban groups from charging for their services–an idea that the pugnacious Minelli calls the product of “sick brains.”
Officials in the canton of Zurich threatened to restrict their activities by making doctors see each patient more than once, and by limiting the supply of sodium pentobarbital. So some groups hoarded the drug, while Dignitas turned to plastic bags and helium. The bag is placed over the head of a person who then opens a flow of helium, falls into a coma and dies “in 99.9 percent of cases,” according to Derek Humphry, a British author whose suicide manual “Final Exit” has sold at least a million copies. But the use of helium smacked to many Swiss of Nazi gas chambers, and made Minelli a tabloid hate figure–a sentiment widely shared in Schwerzenbach.
Like most Swiss, the townspeople support the principle of assisted suicide, but “the helium was the last straw,” says Manfred Milz, who is evicting Dignitas from his building. [Me: !!!!]…The government is weighing rules that could spell the end for “suicide tourism,” which James Harris of London’s Dignity in Dying says would only mean more agonizing suicides, often botched.
I can smell the terminal nonjudgmentalism all the way out here in California. Suicide is not a necessity. The way to stop the circus is to outlaw assistance and enforce the law. People in such despair that they are willing to fly overseas to be made dead need our compassionate help in living, not in dying.
And here’s the thing about media epitomized by this story: Even though it could be perceived as being critical of suicide tourism, there are no quotes from anymore that challenge the fundamental premises of the assisted suicide movement. Reporters, it seems, have sucked the cultural helium in a bag and don’t feel the need to present contrary views.