Swiss assisted dying clinic ‘inundated’ with Qlders
Queenslanders desperate for a painless death have turned to Switzerland's world-renowned assisted-dying clinic ahead of the state considering similar end-of-life laws.
Pegasos, a voluntary assisted dying clinic based in the northern Swiss town of Basel, is receiving almost daily inquiries from Queenslanders considering their deaths.
The clinic, which opened in 2019, has received more inquiries from people in Queensland than any other state in Australia.
Pegasos spokeswoman Fiona Stewart said the clinic recorded a growing number of referrals from Australia.
"Pegasos has regular weekly, sometimes daily, inquiries from folk in Queensland," she said.
"People are not necessarily looking to Pegasos to die, but they are looking for choice.
"Most people hope they will never need to use Pegasos but they get great comfort knowing that if things get too bad, or if they are faced with moving into a nursing home for example, they have a choice.
"With no law in Australia that is accessible to older Queenslanders, a service like Pegasos is the obvious place to turn."
At Pegasos people die by injection of a lethal drug or by taking a small drink - with death usually occurring seconds after a person goes to sleep.
Participants must meet several clinic and Swiss safeguards before getting the "green light" to end their life.
"A successful application and the so-called green light can sit there for years unused until the moment of need, or it may never be used," Dr Stewart said.
The state government is set to introduce assisted dying legislation to the Queensland parliament before June after consideration by the Queensland Law Reform Commission.
Dr Stewart - the partner of prominent pro-euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke - said Queensland's law should replicate Switzerland, where any person can legally be assisted to die, as long as they are of sound mind and they initiate the final action themselves.
"The Swiss system is a fairer, more inclusive system which has worked well for decades," she said.
Queensland's legislation is expected to permit assisted dying only to people with a terminal illness, a restriction Dr Stewart says will "exclude far more deserving people than it will ever help".
"We are all going to die and Pegasos believes that no one should be excluded from having a good death just because we were not sick enough to qualify for help under the law," she said.
Western Australian David Goodall, a 104-year-old professor, used an assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland to end his life in 2018 despite not suffering a terminal illness.
Dr Stewart said he "would never have qualified" to use existing laws in Western Australia, Victoria and likely Queensland.
She revealed an increasing number of couples, including several from Queensland, were "planning to go together".
"Whether they end up at Pegasos is unknown … what is known is that they will never qualify under the Queensland law if it goes the way of the Victorian and Western Australia legislative models," Dr Stewart said.
Pegasos does not assist depressed or suicidal people.
If you need assistance phone Lifeline on 131 114.
Originally published as Swiss assisted dying clinic 'inundated' with Qlders