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If euthanasia was good enough for King George V, why should WE be denied it?

I HAD no idea until last night that King George V had been fast-tracked to oblivion when, in 1935, he was given a lethal injection in the neck.

King George V

King George V

This fact was revealed when prominent British euthanasia supporter, Dr Michael Irwin – addressing a packed meeting of the Brighton & Hove Humanist Society – provided a fascinating background to the current heated debate on the subject of assisted suicide in the UK.

And he warned that “anti-choice” zealots, mainly from religious organisations, were beavering away in the background to scupper any attempts to liberalise the law on euthanasia.

It was therefore vitally important, he said,  that people in the UK who support a change in the law that would allow assisted suicide – around 75 percent of the population – make their feelings known in no uncertain terms to their MPs.

Dr Irwin, 78, recently challenged the police to arrest him for his role in the suicide of Raymond Cutkelvin in 2007. He contributed £1,500 towards the cost of Cutkelvin’s trip to the Swiss clinic Dignitas, and accompanied the dying man and his partner, Alan Cutkelvin Rees, to Zurich.

Alan Cutkelvin Rees was subsequently arrested by police in London for his involvement in the death, but Irwin was ignored – until he threw down the gauntlet. Police at Shoreditch in east London then arrested him, and he has been bailed until September 23.

Dr Irwin said he issued the challenge to expose the “hypocrisy” of the law in relation to assisted suicide in the UK. In a talk entitled Assisted Dying: What’s Legal and What’s Not, he pointed out that euthanasia campaigners in Britain have been trying for decades to bring about a change in the law.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society, for example, was established in 1935, a year before King George V received a lethal injection of morphine and cocaine from his doctor, Lord Dawson, who had agreed with the Queen not to “strive officiously” to keep the king alive.

Gay couple

Devoted til the end: Raymond Cutkelvin, left, who died in Switzerland, and his partner Alan Cutkelvin Rees

Curiously, Dawson then opposed a bill in the House of Lords that would have legalised euthanasia, arguing that legislation was unnecessary because “good doctors” already helped their patients to die.

Addressing the case of MS sufferer Debbie Purdy and the landmark ruling by the Law Lords for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to clarify the law on people who travel abroad for assisted suicides, Dr Irwin said:

It’s a small step in the right direction.

But he added:

It might actually make it more difficult for people to go to Switzerland. In a sense, the DPP was given a can of worms.

He explained that guidelines drawn up by the DPP could prove far too restrictive. If, for example, there was to be a requirement that nobody assisting a suicide should gain financially from that person’s death, then it could pose problems as most spouses would fall into that category.

Even then, if the DPP does lay down guidelines for going to Switzerland there would still be a two-tier system – “if you have the money you can go, but if you haven’t you stay here and risk prosecution”.

Dr Irwin said he did not think a change in the law would occur for at least a decade given that “there is a solid block of obstruction” in the House of Lords, and a grim determination on the part of mainly religious campaigners to obstruct any changes.

He added that, apart from writings to MPs, it was important for people to join organisations such as Dignity in Dying as they will need as much public support as possible in the battle to get the law changed.

“This is an important human rights issue,” he stressed.

21 responses to “If euthanasia was good enough for King George V, why should WE be denied it?”

  1. jude dodd says:

    Long overdue…why should the religious amongst us STILL have control over these things? It's MY life not theirs, and I object to them (therefore the law) telling me how to live or die. They get so indignant about the sactity of life issue, but if you are an atheist or utilitarian this concept is null and void. They can have their sanctity and leave me to my euthanasia, thanks very much.

  2. Paul Edmondson says:

    I belive the king was assisted in dying so that his death could be brough forward so that it could be announced in the quality papers the next morning rather than the death being announced in the un-posh evening papers.

  3. valdemar says:

    But were his last words 'Bugger Bognor'? I so want this to be true that I suspect it can't be. On the other hand, why make it up?

  4. CybrgnX says:

    To put this simply….I don't care what those simpering bunches of ass-wipe want-think-or believe!!!!
    Pull you plucking dicks out of everyone elses ass and mind your own business!!!!
    You don't like suicide-abortion-or gays !!!! THEN DONT DO IT!!!! and leave the rest of us alone to live a more intelligent life then you can dream of!!!!! It don't matter what laws you morons pass…..
    If my lady wants an abortion – she WILL have it!! when I want suicide – I WILL do it!!! And there aint NO way you can prevent it!!!!

  5. remigius says:

    Whilst I too wish that 'Bugger Bognor' were his last utterence, I have reason to believe this was not the case. Informed sources cite the kings actual last words as 'God damn you!'.

    Most unbecoming of the head of the Church of England. Hence the myth!

  6. barriejohn says:

    Another version says that he was told that the whole Empire was thinking of him, and replied: "Bugger the Empire!" They're both very funny remarks, but that makes them even less believable, I'm afraid!!

  7. Whitleylad says:

    Correct. King George had no idea what was happening. It was the Doctor, who felt it was unseemly to die before The Times deadline. As the story goes he said to HRH don't worry you'll be sunbathing in Bognor in no time (or something of that ilk). To which he apparently replied… "Bugger Bognor".

  8. barriejohn says:

    I've just read elsewhere that he was reported to have said: "How is the Empire." If THAT one is kosher I'm a Chinaman!

  9. barriejohn says:

    I've just read elsewhere that he was reported to have said: "How is the Empire?" If THAT one is kosher I'm a Chinaman!

  10. tony e says:

    I have to agree with CybrgnX, only without the !!!!!

  11. Buffy says:

    Religion is about control, and religious people think by extension they have the right to control everyone else.

  12. Buffy says:

    Religious whackos are actually very much in favor of euthanasia. Just tell them you're gay or an abortion doctor rather than "I'm terminally ill and want to die with dignity rather than hooked up to tubes and in horrible pain". They'll put you out of misery in no time.

  13. Robert Stovold says:

    One religious argument against euthanasia is that life, being God-given, is infinitely precious. Therefore nothing should be done to shorten it.
    But from exactly the same starting assumption we can deduce that since a long life and a short one are both of infinite worth, a shorter life is no less precious than a longer one!
    Only religion can provide us with ultimate answers. Ultimately useless answers!

  14. tony e says:

    What level of arrogance is needed to dictate to a terminally ill person how they should die?

    Having worked in the past with stroke patients, I can assure these morons there is no dignity in old age with serious health issues.

  15. CybrgnX says:

    Other the the questionable fraud against the government for inharitance and the real fraud to insurence companies, I cannot think of any real reason why any one should object to my personal decision to end it at anytime I choose. Terminal illness is not a requirement as this is just a cop-out.
    (there! no !!!! this time. I get emotioanl when they stick their stiff pointy thing into my business….That would be their nose by the way)

    Buffy–great point and that gives an out for the religious nut to do himself in as well.
    But it wont work because I told one Xtian I was a real witch & proved it but they refused to kill me and said they didn't believe me either. So they probably wont kill you for being gay either.

  16. docgonzo says:

    my mother has m.s., she now can no longer use her legs and is relient on my dad for every need (from dressing to wiping after defication.) she takes ever increasing doses of morphine to manage the pain (she refuses pot as it is illegal, go figure). last month w, my mum and me, had a conversation about going to dignitas when mum feels she can take no more. to my surprise she was receptive to the idea. it breaks my heart to see mum like this, she has never complained all through the yrs shes had this disease, even now, shes stoic my mum. but now shes almost had enough, her only question was "how much will it cost?". looks like ill have to run a legal gauntlet at some point soon. any advise

  17. barry_duke says:

    Given that no-one has so far been prosecuted in England for assisting a suicide, I would think that there is little chance that the law would swing into action if you accompanied your mum to Switzerland. The cost, I am reliably informed, is £4,500. This includes travel and accommodation.

  18. Robert Stovold says:

    The Argus (local paper for Brighton and Hove, where Dr. Irwin was speaking) covered the story today:
    http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4582548.Hove_doctor_arrested_over_friend_s_suicide__helped_50_others_to_die_/

  19. doc gonzo says:

    cheers baz m8, me sykpe is alecbuck. anyone else aint welcome and will not be added. baz, got ur mssg over the mobile m8. cant talk to anyone bout this! none of me m8s know, (there godphucked), need to talk with a human m8. alec

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