Dignitas: not a holiday get-away

Karen and Rona Royle 

About 160 Britons have died at Dignitas,
about one in six of the clients of the Swiss suicide clinic in Zurich. What is
it like? London’s Daily
– whose specialty is first person narratives, rather than detached
commentary – interviewed the daughter of a 74-year-old woman who died there in
2009. Rona Royle was diagnosed with motor neurone disease early in the year and
after researching the disease on the internet, decided to end her life at

She was accompanied by her daughter Karen,
her husband, Jim, who was suffering from dementia, and Karen’s partner.

The image Karen
and her partner David Sweetman cannot erase from their minds is of a ‘blue tin
shed’ on a barren industrial estate, with no views, just a scrubby patch of
garden littered with cigarette butts.

Inside, the
prefabricated structure was equally Spartan, with no decorations apart from two
roses, an angel-shaped candle and a silver-winged candle holder that the
Royles, at Rona’s request, had brought with them.

‘That vision of
what was little more than a blue tin shed will stay with me for the rest of my
life,’ says David, a decorator.

‘It reminded me
of a gas chamber. I felt like I was taking Rona to her execution.

‘When the taxi
turned into that industrial estate, we were so horrified I just wanted to turn
straight round and drive away. The only thing that stopped us was Rona’s
determination to go through with it. I kept asking her: “Rona, are you sure
about this?” But she never wavered. To this day, though, I can’t help but feel
guilty for taking her there.’

Rona’s suicide split the family. Her son
David could not accept the decision and is now estranged from Karen. Jim was
completely befuddled by what happened. He died of cancer several months later.

Compared with
Mum, Dad had the better death, without a doubt,’ says Karen. ‘Although his body
was riddled with cancer, he died peacefully at home with us.’

Mail, June 18


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