Assisted suicide could be offered to Britons who are chronically depressed rather than terminally ill, according to the head of a controversial Swiss group. Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference Ludwig Minelli says his organisation, Dignitas, is asking the Swiss Supreme court to allow a change in the law which would enable depressed Britons to travel abroad to be assisted to kill themselves.

Minelli said today that he wanted all depressed people in Switzerland to have the right to assisted suicide adding that suicide was a 'marvellous possibility open to human beings' and representative of a 'modern attitude'.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, commented: 'Dr Minelli has condemned himself out of his own mouth. His spine-chilling comments only highlight the dangers that would arise in Britain if we followed Switzerland's example and legalised assisted suicide. We would soon have our own Dr Minellis, encouraging sick and vulnerable people to end their own lives, if only to avoid becoming a burden on their families or the NHS. The case of Dr Harold Shipman, who killed hundreds of elderly patients, gave us a chilling glimpse of what can happen when a doctor believes he is above the law. Assisted dying is a slippery slope to all the horrors of legalised killing and must be resisted at all costs.'

'Dr Minelli's remarks about suicide show a callous disregard for vulnerable people and complete ignorance of the treatment options available for those who are suffering from depression. A request for suicide is almost invariably a cry for help and support, which should be met with the best care available, not a lethal draught of poison.'

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