British Dignitas membership soars by 24% as Scotland could be the first UK nation to legalise assisted dying

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • 1,900 registered British members in 2023, a rise of 372 on the previous year  
  • The UK ranks second behind Germany in the number of its nationals registered 

Dignitas membership in the UK soared by 24 per cent last year – as assisted dying legislation yesterday came closer in Scotland.

There were 1,900 registered British members in 2023, a rise of 372 on the previous year, according to figures.

Also last year, there were 40 UK residents who travelled to its clinic in Switzerland to die, Dignitas revealed.

The UK ranks second behind Germany both in the number of its nationals registered as members and the total number of people who have made the trip. 

Overall, 1,454 people had travelled from Germany, while there were 571 from the UK and 549 from France.

The UK ranks second behind Germany both in the number of its nationals registered as members and the total number of people who have made the trip to Dignitas assisted suicide clinic (pictured)

The figures cover 1998 to 2023. However, fewer from Germany have opted to die at Dignitas, dropping into the single digits in recent years.

But the number travelling from the UK has risen, as has that of France which saw 50 citizens make the journey for an assisted death last year. It comes as legislation was published at Holyrood that looks to begin the process of Scotland becoming the first nation in the UK to legalise assisted dying.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur introduced the Bill which is likely to be voted on by MSPs later this year – it came after a consultation found 76 per cent of Scots supported the proposals.

A vote would be the third time the issue of assisted dying has come before the Scottish parliament – two previous attempts to change the law have been resoundingly defeated. 

The Bill sets out conditions under which assisted dying would be legalised in a bid to provide ‘robust safeguards’.

Under the legislation, only those over the age of 16 with an advanced terminal illness would have the option of an assisted death. 

They would need to have the mental capacity to make the request and the Bill sets out a 14-day mandatory ‘reflection’ period. The patient would also be required to administer the life-ending treatment themselves.

Those eligible would also be required to have been resident in Scotland for at least 12 months and be registered with a medical practice. 

Mr McArthur said: ‘Currently in Scotland assisted dying is illegal, a situation that I believe is failing too many terminally ill Scots at the end of life. 

‘It is leaving them facing traumatic deaths that impact not just them, but those that they leave behind. We can and must do better.

‘The provisions… would be robustly safeguarded to ensure the process works as intended.’

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur introduced the Bill which is likely to be voted on by MSPs later this year ¿ it came after a consultation found 76 per cent of Scots supported the proposals

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur introduced the Bill which is likely to be voted on by MSPs later this year – it came after a consultation found 76 per cent of Scots supported the proposals

The Bill has been praised by campaigners, led by Dame Esther Rantzen who is herself a member of Dignitas, having been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

 ‘The current law is cruel, complicated and causes terrible suffering to vulnerable people,’ she said.

‘I have received dozens of letters from people describing the agonising deaths of those they loved. This is literally a life and death issue.’

But Bishop of Paisley John Keenan said the Bill ‘attacks human dignity’ and introduces a dangerous idea that a citizen can lose their value and worth. 

‘Assisted suicide sends a message that there are situations when suicide is an appropriate response to one’s individual circumstances, worries, anxieties,’ he said.

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