The end-of-life Centres
How do they operate
“You can’t just show up and expect them to kill you”
First you have to become a member or, in the case of Pegasos, a “supporter”. Then you have to be approved as a potential candidate for a Voluntary Assisted Death. This involves much documentation. If successful, you will be given a “provisional green light”. After that, and after as long a delay as you want, you can make the arrangements for your visit. From start to finish the process normally takes three months.
Of those who become members, only 16% apply for a provisional green light. Of those 16%, slightly fewer than half actually make the arrangements to go through with it.
You will need to take someone with you if at all possible. You will need to stay at least one night, usually two and possibly three. The Swiss police are always called when an assisted death has been carried out. Lifecircle ask friends or relatives to stay until any police enquiries have been carried out. With Dignitas, friends and relatives can leave as soon as they want but they are asked not to leave Switzerland until the following day. You will be cremated in Switzerland and your ashes will be flown home later. Transport in a coffin can also be arranged, though it is inevitably a lot more expensive.
These timings vary considerably from one organisation to another but, as a general planning guide, they are reasonably accurate.
The words “suicide clinic in Switzerland” create an inevitable mental picture of what they are. You envisage a modern medical facility rather like a BUPA hospital in the UK. A kindly doctor with an impressively Swiss name, excellent English and an accent like Roger Federer will give you a reassuring little talk and tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. Then an attractive nurse in a white coat will take you into a smaller room and ask you to roll your sleeve up please.
That is not how it is.
They hate being called “clinics” for a start. “Clinic” is an invention of the tabloids. It can lead people to believe that there is a sort of “check-in-and-drop-out” option available to them. There is not.
The centres all have offices which are separate from where the end-of-life measures are carried out. The offices look like those of insurance brokers, architects, website designers or any other profession. The end-of life measures are conducted a few miles away in apartments or houses, specially prepared for the purpose but otherwise just like ordinary residential homes.
Fifteen years ago, it was quite normal for such apartments actually to be in ordinary blocks of flats. As things got busier, however, some of the neighbours complained. Lugging your shopping up to your floor whilst a coffin was being brought down can hardly have been an added attraction. So, now, these apartments are actually set in relatively industrial surroundings. On the inside they look like any apartments anywhere. From the outside they look like commercial buildings.
There are no big signs either. The offices look unremarkable. The apartments are deliberately unmemorable. The centres do not exactly pursue a policy of anonymity but have taken care not to become attractive locations. Even in Switzerland not everyone is in favour of what they do. From experience, they try not to make life easy for those who expect things to be done without proper forethought or planning.Read Next Section >