Police probe Dignitas death after son raises questions

Police are investigating the case of a woman who did not have a terminal illness but committed suicide at Swiss ‘clinic’ Dignitas.

The son of Kathleen Dobson says he was not told she was about to commit suicide, and if he had known he would have intervened.

Mrs Dobson, who lived in Guernsey, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which left her depressed and in pain, but friends said she had a decent standard of living.

Investigation

She was helped to commit suicide at the Dignitas clinic on 5 September 2008 in the presence of two of her three children.

But son Robert Carlton said a requirement that all of her children be notified of her intentions was not fulfilled, and police have now launched an investigation.

“I was kept in the dark over her visit to Dignitas and was never sent any documents by them or anyone else,” said Mr Carlton.

Appalled

“If I had been aware of what was going on I would have flown to Guernsey and put a stop to it”, he said.

Mr Carlton added: “She was not terminally ill and the last time I spoke to her – on Sunday, Aug 31, 2008 – she sounded in good spirits.

“She gave no inkling to me she was about to take her life and did not mention that my name was being used to validate the documents for Dignitas.

“In my view, Dignitas have behaved appallingly and their actions and the actions of others need to be fully investigated.”

Contradiction

Mr Carlton said he spoke to his mother several times a week while she was alive and she never mentioned any plans to go to the Swiss centre.

Another of Mrs Dobson’s sons, Graham Carlton, said his mother had made clear that Robert should not know what was happening.

She told a doctor at the Dignitas clinic that all three sons supported her decision.

But Mr Carlton said that was in “complete contradiction to the truth”.

Debate

A spokesman for Guernsey Police said: “We will be following up any further lines of inquiry we feel necessary and appropriate.”

Robert Carlton has also raised questions over changes to his mother’s will made prior to her death.

In February it was revealed that over 30 Britons had ended their lives at Swiss suicide facilities Dignitas and EXInternational in 2009.

Concern

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, released guidance for England and Wales in February which states that people who assist a suicide are unlikely to be prosecuted if they are “motivated by compassion”.

However, critics have expressed concern about the new guidance.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Care Not Killing alliance, said: “Anyone who takes part in an assisted suicide is going to claim they were acting out of compassion.

“The only witness who really knows will be dead.”