Planning your visit
“It is usually a two-day visit but it can be three”.
Apart from the fees and costs to be charged by the centres themselves, there will be heavy costs involved in travel, hotels, meals and other incidentals whilst in Switzerland.
For those wanting to travel by car, the distance between central London and Basel is 529 miles (including the Channel Tunnel) and Zurich, an hour further on, is 582 miles. The roads are motorways once you get out of London. The continuous time in the car (i.e. not including travel stops) is 10 hours to Basel and 11 hours to Zurich. For a journey starting in Manchester or Leeds rather than central London, approximately three hours should be added to the driving time.
There have been a few cases where people have used a camper van. In one case, a Dignitas member, almost entirely paralysed and dependent on oxygen, was driven to Zurich – where Dignitas (in view of the exceptional circumstances) conducted the assisted suicide in that van.
Well, it’s possible but probably not to be recommended. It departs from Paddington and, two hours later, arrives at Brussels Midi station. You need to change platforms to catch the Zurich train. That journey will then take a further seven hours. The “Eurostar” bit only takes you to Brussels. Thereafter you are dragged by a clunky old German fire engine which does get up to a hundred but not very often.
For the purposes of the examples given here, therefore, I have assumed that most people will want to fly. I have also assumed that an intending patient will be accompanied by one person but that two hotel rooms will be required. Finally, I have assumed that a two-night or three-night stay will be involved.
Things might get a bit odd at the departure airport if two people are booked to go out but only one is booked to return.
I have never heard of any specific difficulties but I can also imagine a Swiss immigration officer being a bit perplexed if one of the arriving passengers was totally honest about his “what is the purpose of your journey” question. It is probably best to book return journeys both ways for both passengers. In any case, all the centres are keen to emphasise that members can change their minds up to the last moment, so the absence of a return ticket might indicate the opposite.
There doesn’t seem to be any “normal” schedule but many people take an early flight out from the UK, check in to a Swiss hotel in the early afternoon, have an initial meeting at the hotel with the centre’s staff and a Swiss medical (who will have earlier assessed the request for the assisted suicide) in the late afternoon, have dinner in a local restaurant and stay overnight. The following day, they will meet in the centre’s own office to go through any remaining paperwork formalities, have a second meeting with a doctor and then return to their hotel in the afternoon. On the third day they will arrive at the centre’s house or apartment (i.e.not at their office) for 9.30 am, finalise the formalities by 11.00 and administer the fatal dose immediately after that.
At Lifecircle, relatives and friends are then likely to be required for up to two hours after the death in order to identify the deceased and to complete the formalities. Dignitas is happy for relatives and friends to leave as soon as they want but they are requested to stay in Switzerland for the rest of that day in case their presence is required for the normal post-death investigation.
These typical arrangements are changing frequently. Until very recently, the “two meetings with a doctor” rule applied mainly in the Canton of Zurich, where Dignitas and Exit (Deutsche Schweiz) are based. It is sometimes now possible for the first doctor’s consultation to take place remotely by a videolink such as Zoom, Facetime or other similar web-based facility. Also, both meetings can often now be with the same doctor. This opens up the possibility of having the first of the doctor’s meetings before the patient leaves the UK. For more complex assisted suicide requests, though, it is still likely that two doctors will be required.Read Next Section >