Jenny McCartney : Dignitas and the awful truth about 'happy endings'

We are becoming more relaxed about death of late, it seems, or at least about the possibility that it might be ushered in a little sooner than expected. There is broad public sympathy for individuals who travel abroad to assist terminally ill relatives in their expressed wish to die. The former health secretary Patricia Hewitt recently proposed legislation to protect such individuals from prosecution, and the broadcaster John Humphrys wrote defending the right to euthanasia, using personal experience of deaths in his family to bolster his argument.

Then, last week, Ludwig Minelli suddenly spoke up, and there were sharp intakes of breath all round. Mr Minelli is the founder and director of Dignitas, the Swiss-based organisation that provides a team of doctors and nurses to administer painless deaths on request. He is also a radical on matters of death: he not only regards it as a human right, but appears eager to expand his client base.

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