October 29, 2023
Memo from Switzerland by Sean Davison
Exit’s new Swiss Assistance Programs have been going exceptionally well for our members who prefer the option of an assisted peaceful death in Switzerland.
It is a requirement of Swiss law that a person receiving a Voluntary Assisted Death (VAD) in Switzerland, have their identity confirmed by a witness (or a dental X-ray).
For various reasons, some people do not have a family member or friend to act as their witness. These people seek out the services of Exit International to provide such a person.
The most common reason for requesting a witness is that they don’t want anyone to know their plans, because they fear they will try to stop them.
In addition to assisting numerous people with their applications to Switzerland (Application Assistance Program), I have been the identification witness for 12 Exit members so far this year (Identification Assistance Program).
My first trip to Switzerland as a witness was for Angela Leonard, a 78-year-old woman from Wales.
Before she died, Angela gave me permission to share her story.
Sean & Angela at dinner, the night before she died
I couldn’t have had a better introduction to being an identification witness than to share this experience with Angela Leonard, a delightfully witty and charming woman from the south of Wales.
She wanted to go to her death because her husband had cheated on her – but not in the conventional sense.
She and her husband had applied for a couples VAD in Switzerland because of his rapidly deteriorating health; she wanted to end her life with him, rather than live her remaining years in the void of his loss.
However, before they could enact their plan he had a fatal heart attack – Angela felt cheated! But she was not deterred and proceeded with the VAD plan on her own, in the hope of joining her husband on the other side.
I spent two days sharing Angela’s company, and it was a wonderful introduction to the world of VADs.
We often talked about her upcoming death, and how she had no fear whatsoever about it, and couldn’t wait for her VAD appointment to come.
The night before her death we had a celebratory dinner – celebrating her life and being granted a VAD the next day.
The following morning when we met at breakfast at the hotel, her excitement at going to her death had not waned.
Even when I gently tested her determination, by asking how she felt about sipping her last cup of coffee, she raised her cup in the air and spouted “I’ll drink to that!”
When we arrived at the clinic, she followed all the formalities of completing the final paperwork.
At this point a person would normally go to the designated room, lie on the bed, and have an intravenous cannula prepared to administer the Nembutal.
But Angela Leonard wasn’t ready for that just yet.
She had previously chosen a song she wanted played at her death, but changed her mind and decided she wanted it now so she could have a final dance.
The tune ‘Don’t stop me now’, by Queen, her favourite group (which also happened to be mine!).
She dragged me on to the clinic’s ‘dance floor’ and we had an impromptu rock & roll dance as the tune pounded out!
What a wonderful way to go, full of joy, and hope for what she thought awaited her on the other side.
My first VAD trip to Switzerland is ingrained in my memory forever – and a marker for how grand it can be for others.