Dignitas founder on trial for exploiting patients

The founder of Swiss suicide facility Dignitas stands accused of profiteering from patients and exploiting their suffering for his own benefit.

Ludwig Minelli is on trial over charges that he profited from three cases of assisted suicide between 2003 and 2010.

In one of the cases, Minelli is said to have arranged for the assisted suicide of an 80-year-old German woman because she left Dignitas £74,000 in her will.


He is also accused of overcharging a mother and daughter for their assisted suicide by almost £8,000.

In the case of the 80-year-old woman, she was assisted in her death despite not being terminally ill.

Three doctors had refused to carry out assisted suicide on the grounds that it was unethical, but Minelli found a fourth doctor who was willing to do so.

Despite a request to have her ashes buried beside her husband in Germany, prosecutors say they were disposed of in Lake Zurich instead.


If found guilty, prosecutors are calling for a fine of over £5,200 and court costs to be paid, along with a suspended fine of almost £50,000 and two-year probation period.

Minelli claims the accusations are “unfounded and incomprehensible”.

The trial continues. It is unclear when the verdict will be handed down.

No respect

In 2010, the human ashes of up to 50 Britons who died at the suicide facility were accidently discovered by divers in Lake Zurich. A former Dignitas employee said there could be as many as 300 urns hidden there.

Soraya Wernli said: “Women wanted to be buried next to their husbands, but instead Dignitas threw their ashes in the lake”.

Wernli gave an interview to The Sunday Times, explaining that the reality is that the Dignitas clinic is “just one person who has found a way to make a lot of money out of death and the fear of it”.

She told the paper how Minelli would authorise double suicides behind her back and use other employees to carry them out because of her objections.

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