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Doctor who helped pay for an assisted suicide challenges police to arrest him

DR MICHAEL Irwin, 78, who is due to address Brighton atheists on the subject of assisted suicide on September 2, has challenged police to arrest him for his involvement in the death of a British businessman in 2007.

Dr Michael Irwin

Dr Michael Irwin

The former GP sent £1,500 to the Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas to help cover the money needed to fund Raymond Cutkelvin’s death. This kind of payment is illegal under British law.

Dr Irwin was part of a group who travelled to Zurich with Mr Cutkelvin and his partner Alan Cutkelvin Rees in February 2007.

He told Sky News:

I met them twice beforehand and felt compassion towards them. I personally sent a cheque directly to Dignitas, before they went.

Mr Cutkelvin, 58, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in August 2006.

He decided to end his life in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal so long as the patient takes the lethal dose of barbituates themselves.

Dr Irwin has written an open letter to Hackney CID stating that he will be voluntarily attending Shoreditch Police Station on Friday to explain his role in the suicide.

Mr Cutkelvin’s partner of 28 years was arrested at his flat in Hackney on July 17 on suspicion of aiding or abetting the suicide of another.

Alan Cutkelvin Rees has been bailed to return Stoke Newington police station on September 23, when he will find out if he is to face charges.

Irwin, a former chairman of campaign group Dignity In Dying and a board member of pro-suicide charity Friends At The End, cannot understand why Rees was arrested, but he was not.

He said:

They should arrest me. I gave financial support, moral support and advice. I consider myself equally involved. If not they should admit they made a mistake in arresting Alan.

In 2003, Irwin hit the headlines after he was arrested following his confession that he had tried to assist a terminally ill friend to die. No charges followed, but in 2005 he was struck off the medical register after an inquiry by the General Medical Council. He has also claimed to have helped at least 50 terminally ill patients to die.

It is believed more than 115 Britons have made a similar journey to Switzerland within the last 10 years – many of those accompanied by friends or family.

The 1961 Suicide Act states that it is a crime to aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of someone else.

The decision over court action comes down to the Director of Public Prosecutions – and so far no one has ever been charged.

Both Dr Irwin and Mr Cutkelvin Rees are campaigning for a change to the law to allow assisted suicide here in the UK – a change that is vigorously opposed by Christian pressure groups.

Mr Cutkelvin Rees said of the doctor:

I’m very pleased with what he is doing and I support him fully.

The case comes as MS sufferer and campaigner Debbie Purdy waits to hear whether the Law Lords will clarify the wording on assisted suicide law.

She intends to end her life at Dignitas but wants guarantees her husband will not face prosecution if he accompanies her to Switzerland.

The title of Dr Irwin’s upcoming talk to the Brighton & Hove Humanist Society is Assisted Suicide: What is Legal and What is Not.

10 responses to “Doctor who helped pay for an assisted suicide challenges police to arrest him”

  1. Broga says:

    This is the only way we are going to get anyway on this: confront the bigots and face them down. This is when they back off. I heard on the BBC News (Radio 4 this morning) that religious leaders were against any change because there "is no knowing where this will end." Maybe they should bring Tony Blair to face his secret policies and try to discover "where that will end." How many young men died from that.____I am expecting to be in Brighton when Dr Irwin is there and I hope I may be able to be at his talk. I admire his courage but I also admire his compassion.

  2. Broga says:

    This is the only way we are going to get anyway on this: confront the bigots and face them down. This is when they back off. I heard on the BBC News (Radio 4 this morning) that religious leaders were against any change because there "is no knowing where this will end." Maybe they should bring Tony Blair to face his secret policies and try to discover "where that will end." How many young men died from those.____I am expecting to be in Brighton when Dr Irwin is there and I hope I may be able to be at his talk. I admire his courage and I also admire his compassion.

  3. Stuart H. says:

    Michael – best wishes and good luck from an old friend in the Isle of Man.
    Alan – similarly, best wishes and good luck as I know what you're going through.
    It could be a bumpy ride, and patience and a sense of humour will help. Hope you have both.
    After all my good friend Pat Kneen and his widow went through it's a disgrace others are still going through this nonsense.

  4. CybrgnX says:

    Again we have a bunch of frightened religious nuts telling everyone else what to do and how to do it.
    I have only one prayer or wish……
    Lord help protect me from those who wish to protect me from myself.
    But it will not happen because we scare the crap out of the religious because they can see us defy their supposed gOd with no retaliation and they can't afford to see or think about that.

  5. Ed Haz says:

    The Law Lords, no matter how sympathetic they may be, can only interpret the law as it stands, and I am sorry that I am so pessimistic, but I think they will have to give mrs purdy bad news. However, the DPP’s reluctance to prosecute speaks volumes, and should be the answer Mrs Purdy seeks.

    What is needed to protect the partners of those who wish to die is change at a statutory level, and such a change would be relatively easy to draft; simply say that it must be a terminal illness, verifies by 2 independent doctors, and chosen freely by the patient. This would unforunately not cover people who are not terminal, but this is a realistic and necessary concession to make, given MPs reluctance on the grounds that they don’t want the elderly to feel pressured into committing suicide.

    It isn’t hard, it just isn’t on Labour’s agenda at the moment, so they fob it off with weak counter arguments. Don’t hope a Tory Government will care either…

  6. Har Davids says:

    I'm glad I live in Holland where there's some possibility of euthanasia. Let's just leave to the parties concerned to decide, it works in some counties. Allowing people to die at home or as close to it as possible, seems to be the least one can do.

  7. Robert Stovold says:

    One religious objection to suicide stems from the idea that life, being God-given, is of infinite worth. Because a few seconds of life are of infinite worth, nothing should be done to hasten death.
    However, one could take exactly the same starting assumption, calculate that a long life and a short life are both of infinite worth, and conclude from this that a longer life is of no greater value than a shorter one! We are often told that only religion offers ultimate answers.
    Yes, ultimately useless answers.

  8. Gordon says:

    If my dog were suffering nobody would dispute me going to the vet and having him put to sleep. I'd cry, people would sympathise, but nobody would condemn me.

    If my Grandmother were suffering that'd be different, apparently. For reasons entirely unclear!

  9. Robert Stovold says:

    I've just recived this message from Michael via Fleur Jacot, membership secretary of the Brighton and Hove Humanist Society, where Michael is due to speak in September.

    "Hopefully, on September 2nd, I will have been arrested, but will be "on bail" – therefore, free to speak to you all!"

  10. […] Irwin, 78, recently challenged the police to arrest him for his role in the suicide of Raymond Cutkelvin in 2007. He contributed £1,500 […]