From Barcelona to Basel, and an end to suffering

Room with a View. The Dignitas hotel offers an ending.

From Barcelona to Basel is less than 500 miles – an hour and a half’s flight or overnight on the train. But for Jordi, an 80-year-old Barcelona man with severe respiratory problems, it was a deeply desired journey for his life and death. This week, his daughter decided to make her father’s case public in order to put pressure on the authorities in a bid to see assisted suicide and dignified deaths legalised.

Jordi had been unwell for numerous years, managing on just one lung after losing the other to tuberculosis. He endured frequent respiratory crises, his ailments getting worse after the death of his wife.

Nuria, one of his daughters, recalls the moment her father announced his intention. “The first feeling was rage. A deep anger. I did not understand why my father wanted to die.” All the family tried to dissuade him. Could he go and live with them? Was he feeling lonely perhaps? But with great determination, their father gave them an ultimatum: “If you do not want to participate, I will do it alone.”

After a number of interviews with Dignitas personnel to make sure that Jordi’s decision had been taken without any outside pressures, the two daughters and their partners travelled with him to Switzerland in April of last year.  After five days in Basel, they went to the house where a drug was administered that ended his life swiftly and in the manner he desired.

The house was just outside a small town near Basel remembers Nuria excitedly. It was a very calm, pastel colours, chairs . . . There were two young women. After the formalities, they left the room to afford us time to say goodbye.

When the women returned, one brought the drug, but first gave him a sweet juice as the liquid is very bitter. The other woman was recording: “Are you aware of what you are going to take?”

“When Dad took it, says Nuria, “he fell asleep immediately. In 10 minutes it was all over. In 10 minutes he died.”

Straightforward, humane, and relatively simple. Yet increasingly nations without aid-in-dying laws find their citizens turning to Dignitas for relief. “We have a totally wrong conception of death, says Nuria. Death is a consequence of life and I think it should end when you want it to, not when anyone else wants.”

Note: The numbers of persons dying at Dignitas, by country of origin can be found here:
(in Swiss, but easy enough to follow): (from the Dignitas website)

Main link to Dignitas:
Dignitas website, with some information in English

Correction: This blog post was amended 10/02/11 as the figures previously quoted were shown to be incorrect. We apologise for this error.

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