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A former worker for a Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland is speaking out and was so horrified by what she saw that she is now sharing her story with European media. Soraya Wernli was a “companion” worker, someone holding the hand of patients who would take their lives at the Swiss clinic.

When Wernli went to work for Dignitas founder Ludwig Minelli she thought she would be handling paperwork and helping patients in a supposedly compassionate environment.

The experience was far different and much worse.

“But then, just a few days into the job, he asked me to sort through the stuff in these plastic bin liners clogging the stairs,” she told the London Daily Mail.

The contents of the bag included the former possessions of the deceased — everything from phones and purses to shoes, jewelry and glasses.

“I realized these were possessions which had been left behind by the dead. They had never been returned to family members. Minelli made his patients sign forms saying the possessions were now the property of Dignitas and then sold everything on to pawn and second-hand shops,” she told the newspaper.

“I felt disgusted. You see these old photos of people in Nazi death camps sorting through the possessions of those who had been gassed. Well, right then and there, that is how I felt,” Wernli added.

Wernli spent two and a half years working at the suicide clinic and she said nothing in her training as a nurse prepared her for the experience.

She told the newspaper she began to see the suicide clinic not as the compassionate place for ending lives but as a money-making killing machine taking advantage of the disabled and terminally ill.

She explained how Minelli would rush people through the death process by giving them the deadly drugs just hours after arriving from the airport.

“This is the biggest step anyone will ever take. They should at least be allowed to stay overnight, to think about what they are doing. But Minelli would have none of it,” she told the Daily Mail. “He once said to me that if he had his way, he would have vending machines where people could buy barbiturates to end their lives as easily as if they were buying a soft drink or a bar of chocolate.”

“The room where people were to die was often filthy, because Minelli skimped on the cleaning bills. Often there would be shoes or underwear or some other deeply personal item of an earlier victim lying beneath the bed or around the room. It was shameful,” she added.

“And Minelli has the cheek to call his practice Dignitas, when dignity is the last thing afforded to these poor people,” the former nurse said.

Since leaving the clinic in 2005 she has dedicated her time to trying to expose the abuses there and put it out of business.

Wernli is working on a book recounting her experience called The Business With The Deadly Cocktails and promises to expose Dignitas further.

She told the British newspaper that about 1,000 people have killed themselves with the help of Dignitas and that the abuses are so rampant that local officials need to investigate.

“Minelli is book-keeper, secretary general-chief accountant and gatekeeper of the organization. Nothing gets audited,” she said. “It is time the Swiss authorities” get involved.

[27Jan09, Ertelt,, Zurich, Switzerland]