Swiss assisted dying data shows proposed UK laws are inadequate

A new study published today shows that the majority of UK residents who travel to Switzerland for an assisted death would not be helped by the laws considered by Parliament to date. My Death, My Decision urges politicians to support an assisted dying law that recognises intolerable suffering and makes these journeys to Switzerland unnecessary.

Every law that has been proposed in the UK so far has been based on the legislation introduced by the US state of Oregon in 1997. Under the ‘Oregon Model’, only people with a terminal illness who have six months left to live or less are eligible to have an assisted death. 

Many people seeking an assisted death suffer from slow degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease and cannot be said to have “only six months left to live”.  This study shows that more than half the UK residents going to Switzerland have such conditions, and would likely be ineligible under a UK assisted dying law requiring a six-month prognosis. 

The paper was published in the BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

Trevor Moore, Chair of My Death, My Decision said:

“The next parliament must legislate to reflect overwhelming public support for assisted dying. We urge politicians to vote for an ethical and compassionate law that will not discriminate with arbitrary eligibility criteria. We know that many MPs have spoken with constituents with conditions like ALS, Huntington’s and Motor Neurone Disease, who want and deserve the right to have a dignified death on their own terms.

We need a law that would have worked for Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, the men who fought for the right to receive assistance for their self-determined death through the courts and whose Supreme Court challenges remain landmark cases.”

Table 1 Diagnoses of UK Residents receiving an assisted death in Switzerland

Diagnosis Deaths %
Cancer 92 22.7%
Neurological diagnosis 201 49.6%
Chronic Pain  21 5.2%
Dementia incl Huntingtons 13 3.2%
Cardiovascular 7 1.7%
Respiratory 8 2%
Gastrointestinal 3 0.7%
Misc/Multi-Morbidity 60 14.8%
Total 405 100%

A pie chart of conditionsTable 2 UK Residents with neurological diagnoses receiving an assisted death in Switzerland

UK Residents
Nos % of all patients
Motor neurone disease 79 19.5
Parkinsons/ Multiple system atrophy (MSA)  15 3.7
Multiple Sclerosis 63 15.5
Spinal problems/stenosis 9 2.2
Progressive Supranulear Palsy 7 1.7
Paralysis* 11 2.7
Ataxia 3 0.7
Locked in syndrome 1 0.5
Other 13 3.4
TOTAL 201 49.6
* incl tetraplegia and status after stroke

The study:

Analysis was carried out by Marie-Claire Hopwood, palliative care consultant, Dr Graham Winyard, retired public health physician and former Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Colin Brewer, retired psychiatrist and former director of Westminster Hospital’s community alcoholism treatment service.

They analysed the diagnoses of UK residents who had an assisted death during periods between 2005 and 2022 at all three of the Swiss organisations that provide this service to non-residents of Switzerland to try to determine what proportion of them would have met that requirement. 

My Death, My Decision recommends that the UK legislation on assisted dying should be based on the following:

Any adult of sound mind who is intolerably suffering from an incurable, physical condition and has a clear and settled wish to die should have the option of an assisted death.

The Health and Social Care Committee is currently running an inquiry into assisted dying. It is likely to be published soon. 

Progress on assisted dying legislation is being made in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Each jurisdiction is due to debate the issue next year.


Members of the MDMD team, as well as individuals affected by the current law on assisted dying, are available for interview upon request

For further comment or information, media should contact Nathan Stilwell at or phone 07456200033.

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots campaign group that wants the law in England and Wales to allow mentally competent adults who are terminally ill or intolerably suffering from an incurable condition the option of a legal, safe, and compassionate assisted death. With the support of over 3,000 members and supporters, we advocate for an evidence-based law that would balance individual choice alongside robust safeguards and finally give the people of England and Wales choice at the end of their lives.

Read more about our work with the Assisted Dying Inquiry: