Belmont Club

"A marvelous opportunity"

The Times Online describes an chance too good to pass up: to live and let die.

The founder of the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas was criticised yesterday after revealing plans to help a healthy woman to die alongside her terminally ill husband.

Ludwig Minelli described suicide as a “marvellous opportunity” that should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities. Critics said that the plans highlighted the risks of proposals to legalise assisted suicides in Britain for people in the final stages of a terminal illness.

The Dignitas clinic in Zurich claims to have assisted in the deaths of more than 100 Britons. The Zurich University Clinic found that more than a fifth of people who had died at Dignitas did not have a terminal condition.

Mr Minelli said that anyone who has “mental capacity” should be allowed to have an assisted suicide, claiming that it would save money for the NHS.

One of the factors complicating the suicide debate — as with any other — is the question of money. The agency problem has a bad habit of rearing its head in many places. And here it comes again. In this case, the situation is when you hire an agent, Minelli, to advise you on your best interests. But the problem is that is that he stands to make money from urging you to take a certain course of action. Your death is in his best interests. When he describes a suicide at his clinic as a “marvelous opportunity”, is he speaking simply from a sincere belief (never mind whether you disagree with it or not) or is he speaking from an expectation of gain?  The Telegraph reports that some people are already looking into the money angle:

While some regard the assisted suicide group as offering a last measure of dignity to those who want to end their suffering, others see its activities as immoral. But now the clinic’s founder, Ludwig Minelli, is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors over claims that Dignitas is making a profit from the fees it charges patients – contravening the Swiss law that sanctions assisted suicides and its own status as a charity. Prosecutors told The Sunday Telegraph that they are also investigating an allegation that patients’ personal possessions have gone missing after their deaths.

The accusations are part of a two-year inquiry by the authorities in Zurich into Dignitas’s activities. Mr Minelli has refused to talk about either the allegations or the investigation, although it is understood he has strongly denied the claims to prosecutors.

Here too, one wonders whether the State is investigating Minelli out of a sense of “morality” or whether it simply wants to maintain its prerogatives as the sole dealer of death to citizens. The fact is that persons contemplating death either cost money or have money. People have wills, legacies and medical bills.  And money, like some unseen gravitational force, warps things in proportion to its mass. Put enough money and a knife in a room and anything can happen.  These factors exercise an influence on the mind and its useless to deny it.  The phrase “a marvelous opportunity” can apply to death or to making money. Drink this, sir. It’s a marvelous opportunity. And in any case the real commentary on our civilization is that if there’s a crime being committed, in modern eyes the crime will be in making a profit, not in the death. That reminds me of a bad joke about bandidos. “Most of the time I kill people for money,” said the bandido to someone he knew, “but you’re since my friend, I’ll kill you for nothing.”

The Soylent Green assisted suicide scene.