Dying With Dignitas

In the March issue of The Atlantic, Bruce Falconer investigates a controversial company:

Dignitas’s slogan is “To live with dignity, to die with dignity,” and for 12 years the group has been serving cocktails of sodium pentobarbital, a highly lethal barbiturate, to clients from around the world. During that time, Ludwig Minelli has helped more than a thousand people kill themselves, and he has cornered the market in what has come to be called “suicide tourism,” transforming his native Zurich into the undisputed world capital of assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is also legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, as well as in the American states of Oregon, Washington, and Montana. But in all those places, the practice is restricted to people with incurable diseases, involves extensive medical testing and consultation with physicians, and requires that applicants be permanent residents. By contrast, Switzerland’s penal code was designed such that, without fear of prosecution, you can hand someone a loaded pistol and watch as he blows his brains out in your living room.

"The Suicide Tourist," directed by John Zaritsky and aired on Frontline, focuses entirely on the human side of Dignitas - namely, a poignant profile of Craig Ewert's final days with his wife and Lou Gehrig's Disease.