A British man has been arrested after accompanying his homosexual partner to controversial Swiss suicide facility, Dignitas.
Alan Rees, 57, from Dalston in Hackney, east London, was arrested on suspicion of assisting in the suicide of 58-year-old Raymond Cutkelvin who was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer.
The arrest follows weeks of debate over the issue of assisted suicide, with the House of Lords recently rejecting a proposal to make it legal to help someone to commit suicide overseas.
A number of politicians, campaigners and medical experts had warned that the current law is needed to protect vulnerable people.
In the run up to the Lords vote, Mr Rees featured in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper challenging the authorities to arrest him.
Mr Rees told the newspaper how in 2007 he watched his partner of 28 years die in the Swiss suicide facility after taking a lethal dose of barbiturates.
According to a Metropolitan Police spokesman Mr Rees was arrested on 17 July and questioned at Shoreditch police station on suspicion of aiding a suicide, but was later released on bail until late September pending further inquiries.
Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK and carries a potential 14 year prison sentence.
So far 115 Britons are known to have killed themselves at the Dignitas facility but no-one in the UK has yet been prosecuted for helping a family member die abroad.
It emerged last month that several of the 115 Britons were suffering from “treatable” illnesses when they died at Dignitas.
The facility came under fire recently for helping a depressed man commit suicide. And earlier this week a former nurse accused Mr Minelli of using Dignitas to “make a lot of money out of death and the fear of it”, claiming there was no dignity in dying at Dignitas.
The Swiss Government is currently drawing up tighter controls to regulate suicide facilities such as Dignitas.
Swiss national Justice Minister Eveline Wildmer Schlumpf said: “Two variations of the legislation are going to be considered in autumn, one is a complete ban on assisted suicide and one is the introduction of stricter, clearer legislation”.
An interim agreement between the Swiss Government and another Swiss suicide group was recently announced applying stricter rules.
The new rules, initially applying only in the Zurich region, will narrow the circumstances in which an individual will be eligible for assisted suicide, and require them to undergo a longer period of counselling.
Dignitas owner Ludwig Minelli said: “The agreement is directed completely against our organisation.”
He added: “The new laws would fit perfectly in a police state.”