Dignitas criticises 'incompetent journalists' for calling it a 'clinic'

Dignitas has criticised the media for what it claims are misrepresentations of it as an organisation, on the day British cancer patient Bob Cole ended his life with help from the Swiss organisation.

Not a 'clinic': Dignitas HQ in Pfaffikon, Switzerland (credit: Purple Pilchards / Alamy)
Not a 'clinic': Dignitas HQ in Pfaffikon, Switzerland (credit: Purple Pilchards / Alamy)

Calling itself a non-profit organisation that assists people in dying - not a clinic - Dignitas is frequently the subject of UK news coverage, and has been in the spotlight as The Sun newspaper dedicates five pages to the ending of Cole’s life and the issue of assisted dying. Other media outlets have since picked up the story.

Cole died at 2pm today and had worked with a Sun journalist who accompanied him to Switzerland to tell his story.

PRWeek asked Dignitas for a comment on how it handled this particular situation and the journalist's activity, and in return was sent an email saying that due to its small size and large workload it did not have time to answer individual questions from the press.

However, it did include a statement criticising the wider media's coverage of its work, with particular concerns about the way it is commonly referred to as a clinic.

It said: "The ‘Dignitas clinic’ is an invention by incompetent journalists and the tabloids. Dignitas is a small help-to-life and right-to-die non-profit members’ society, a self-determination and dignity advocacy group, but most certainly not a clinic."

Dignitas’ statement said that despite how it may have been perceived in the UK and other parts of the world, it does not have doctors or nurses treating patients in wards, nor does it have a facility that allows people to stay for treatment.

It also said: "The core goal of Dignitas is that Dignitas one day does not exist anymore – because people can have their will at home and don’t need an association like Dignitas." It said it hoped that other countries would adopt similar laws to those in Switzerland so people did not have to travel to the country as so-called suicide tourists.

Legislation to this effect in the UK is supported in an editorial in The Sun today, which says that a poll for the paper found seven out of 10 members of the public said they supported legislation enabling assisted suicide.

Lord Faulkner's Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on 11 September. The Sun's editorial concludes by saying it "prays" that MPs support the bill, going on to say: "Otherwise, future Bob Coles will also be forced to endure a grim journey across Europe to die in a clinic far from home."

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