Section 11.4

Visits to the end-of-life Centres Visit to Pegasos

“Most people who get a Yes want to come straight away”

Pegasos, formal name “The Pegasos Swiss Association”, was founded in 2018 by Ruedi Habegger, the brother of Erika Preisig of Lifecircle.   He had worked with Erika for several years beforehand.   The Association has its main office in Basel, though it also operates a small office in Melbourne, Australia.   Its operational apartment is in Liestal, directly beneath the Lifecircle apartment off Oristalstrasse. Update May 2024 – Pegasos will shortly be conducting its VAD appointments in Roderis, a tiny hamlet in the alpine meadows near Nunningen, approximately 20 miles south of Basel. They will then be relinquishing their lease on the Liestal apartment – but there are some neighbourhood issues in Roderis to be resolved first.

It has 560 “supporters” and can handle up to 200 AVDs per year – though, as the newest of the four Associations, it is not yet operating at that level.   Its connection with Australia is interesting.   Although assisted dying is now legal in all but two states in Australia, the criteria are relatively tight – notably your illness must be “likely” to end your life within six months.   There is still a residual demand, therefore, that cannot be met legally in Australia and there are still a few people prepared to fly to Switzerland for the purpose. 

12% of all the Pegasos supporters are British and Pegasos handles around 30 cases per year from the UK. Over 65% of all Pegasos AVD patients speak English as their main language.

Pegasos, like Lifecircle but unlike Dignitas or EX International, uses a patient-controlled infusion through a cannula rather than a drink.  

Unlike Lifecircle, it uses ultrasonics to help nurses to find the most appropriate vein.   As with all the others, it uses Pentobarbital of Sodium.

The Pegasos Swiss Association is somewhat unique in that it does not work on the “provisional green light” basis.   As Ruedi Habegger says, “When people apply we just tell them Yes or No”.   Most people who get a Yes want to come straight away.

Meeting the criteria for Pegasos seems, on the face of things, to be much simpler and more relaxed than with any of the others.   Certainly, it is presented in less of a bureaucratic way.   However, they are all working under the same Swiss laws and the same regulations.   Therefore if Pegasos becomes too relaxed about all that then they could face difficulties from the Swiss Authorities.

Of course, it is easy to say that if the State Attorney became involved in your case then it could only be after the event and therefore, to put it bluntly, that will be no problem of yours.   However, when Erika Preisig faced prosecution in 2021 that had a devastating effect both upon Erika herself and upon the ability of Lifecircle and Eternal Spirit to continue with their operations as normal.   If there is any risk at all the Pegasos itself might face a similar situation then that could be a problem for a supporter whose date has been planned but whose AVD has not yet taken place.

Ruedi Habegger himself was a most engaging character.   We didn’t meet in his office or at the apartment; we met in a (very good) Tapas restaurant in Liestal.   He said some very funny things – such as when his own lawyer, seeking to establish a patient’s full mental capacity but lacking total understanding of English, asked the patient “if he really understood he would be dead for the rest of his life”.  

His was also the only centre of the three to have seriously considered opening up the potential opportunities offered by the law in Colombia.   There were difficulties to be faced in getting the required consents for the assisted suicide itself.   His proposed Colombian colleague had the answer “Well, this is Colombia.   Just tell them to come as tourists and we’ll kill them anyway”.

There is no doubt that Pegasos is a serious player and is probably the most radical in seeking to enable the right of any individual of sound mind to exercise the freedom of choice they deserve.   His views are quite similar to those expressed by Philip Nitschke.

Pegasos also suggests just one recommended hotel.   This is the Hotel Engel in Liestal.   A mid-range hotel, shortly to undergo a substantial re-fit it is certainly well-located and in the middle of the very attractive town.   It has parking available and is large enough to take the Pegasos visitors without fear of getting a reputation as a hotel “where people go to die”.

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Section 11.5

Visits to the end-of-life Centres - A note about EX International