A terminally ill man from Liverpool has become the first person in Britain to announce that he will take his own life at an "assisted suicide" clinic in Switzerland.

A terminally ill man from Liverpool has become the first person in Britain to announce that he will take his own life at an "assisted suicide" clinic in Switzerland.

Reginald Crew, a 74-year-old former docker and car worker, said yesterday he had been crippled and robbed of his dignity by motor neurone disease.

He said he planned to join Dignitas, which is based in Zurich, where euthanasia is legal. Another British man, a 77-year-old with throat cancer, was given a fatal dose of barbiturate at the clinic in October, but he did so without publicity and his identity has not been disclosed.

Mr Crew, from Hunts Cross, who is married with an adult daughter, heard about Dignitas on a television documentary. The cost of an assisted suicide there is a £46 membership fee.

He said: "I thought this is my last chance. Getting this would be the best gift I could hope for. It is the only chance I have left. Even getting up in the morning is like running a four-minute mile and I am sick of it."

Campaign groups have condemned the growth of "death tourism" and warned that the families of the dying could face prosecution.

But Mr Crew's wife, Win, 71, said she did not care that she would be breaking the law if she helped her husband travel to Zurich to commit suicide.

Ludwig Minelli, a lawyer who founded Dignitas, said Mr Crew was welcome to apply for membership. He said: "If he is 74 and has motor neurone disease and is in pain, then yes, this is the sort of case we deal with. The usual procedure ... is to send a letter of application with medical documents. We send these documents to a Swiss pharmacist to ask if he is prepared to write a prescription for the person. If he says yes, we give the member a provisional green light. The member is asked to give a date and we try to arrange it. He must come to Zurich and speak with a physician, when the definite green light is given if he is in a fit mental state. Then he is brought to our apartment in Zurich, where the assisted suicide takes place."

Mr Crew has sent his initial application but has yet to send his medical documents.

In the past four years the non-profit-making organisation has helped 134 people to end their lives. So far, 14 British people have become members.

The Swiss authorities are deeply concerned by the influx of foreigners and are considering passing emergency legislation to prevent them travelling. Andreas Brunner, the Zurich public prosecutor, said: "What if someone has psychological problems? What if they have an illness which it turns out is actually curable?"

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