Prosecutor: Swiss group Dignitas using helium for assisted suicides

19th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Swiss assisted suicide group Dignitas is helping people to commit suicide with helium, Switzerland's Chief Prosecutor Andreas Brunner said Tuesday.

19 March 2008

Zurich (dpa) - Swiss assisted suicide group Dignitas is helping people to commit suicide with helium, Switzerland's Chief Prosecutor Andreas Brunner said Tuesday.

By using the gas, Dignitas was circumventing the need for a doctor, Brunner told Swiss radio DRS.

Brunner called for clear regulations and a law governing assisted suicide.

According to the radio report, people were committing suicide by placing helium-filled plastic bags over their heads and suffocating themselves.

Dignitas filmed the procedure and sent the footage to the prosecutor.

The pictures were "almost unacceptable," Brunner said. The dying twitched for "tens of minutes."

Brunner said the appropriate way to assist suicides was by a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital, but a doctor's prescription was required for the drug.

State Prosecutor Juerg Vollenweider said Dignitas used the method for the first time on February 18.

Suicide is not illegal in Switzerland, nor is it illegal to help someone end his or her life as long as there are no self-serving motives behind doing so.

The Swiss government has until now refused to introduce state regulation of assisted suicide.

Dignitas claims to have helped 200 people to end their lives in 2006.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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