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Head of Dignitas on trial for euthanising woman who wasn't terminally ill for profit

21 May 2018

 
Mr Minelli is accused of arranging the suicide of a woman despite three doctors refusing on the grounds it was unethical. 

While Guernsey was voting to reject assisted suicide on Friday, and with it the spectre of Dignitas style euthanasia clinics, the head of the notorious Swiss euthanasia organisation was answering to the courts.

Exploiting the vulnerable for profit

Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Dignitas, is on trial on charges of profiteering from patients and exploiting their suffering for his own benefit.

Mr Minelli is accused of arranging the assisted suicide of one German woman because she left the organisation 100,000 Swiss francs (£74,000) in her will. He is also accused of overcharging a mother and daughter by around 11,000 Swiss francs (£8,000) to arrange their suicide.

Providing assisted suicide in Switzerland is not illegal, but it is illegal to do so for profit, under the threat of a maximum five year prison sentence. 

Persistence in killing

In the first case, he is accused of arranging the suicide of an 80 year old German woman who was not terminally ill. Despite three Swiss doctors refusing to carry it out on the grounds that it was unethical, he found a fourth who was prepared to prescribe a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital.

Prosecutors alleged Mr Minelli stood to gain from the woman's death as she had left Dignitas 100,000 Swiss francs in her will, and that she gave power of attorney to Minelli, allowing him to transfer 46,000 francs to a Dignitas account when she died. Further, they say, he did not honour her request to have her ashes buried beside her husband in Germany, but disposed of them in Lake Zurich.

Don't question Dignitas

In the other case, Minelli allegedly in 2010 charged a mother and daughter pair around 10,000 francs each instead of the usual cost of some 5,000 to 6,000 francs. The 85-year-old mother and her 55-year-old daughter agreed to the excessive charges because they were desperate, prosecutors argued.

Mr Minelli vehemently rejected the charges as "inconsistent and absurd", claiming that prosecutors "simply wanted to put their noses" into Dignitas’ business and had "come up with a pretext" to do so.

Prosecutors are seeking a fine of 7,000 Swiss francs (£5,200) and a further suspended fine of 65,000 francs (£48,000).

The trial continues. 

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