British GP helps terminally access Swiss euthanasia clinic

A doctor in the UK who helped terminally ill Britons to travel to a Swiss clinic to commit suicide is under investigation by Surrey Police.

Dr Michael Irwin, a retired GP who was struck off the medical register last year for obtaining drugs to help a friend die, has apparently admitted giving "advice and encouragement" to five people who wanted to die at Zurich's Dignitas clinic.

He says the action meant little to him as he was already retired, and is not afraid to go to prison for his beliefs.

British doctor Anne Turner, 66, from Bath, died there this week; she was suffering from a progressive and incurable degenerative disease.

Dr Irwin says that in the last two years, he has helped three people with advanced cancer, one with advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) and one with advanced Parkinson's disease, to access the clinic.

He admits accompanying a woman with MS from Glasgow to Switzerland last August in order to witness her death.

Scotland has no specific law against assisted suicide.

He wishes people in the UK did not have to resort to such measures because of the law.

He says another woman he assisted was rejected because she was physically unable to swallow the fatal barbiturates drink.

Surrey Police have apparently already interviewed Dr Irwin twice last year and will question him again this week.

At present the maximum penalty for aiding and abetting suicide in England and Wales is 14 years in prison and the 74-year-old former UN medical director and head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society has already received a police caution.

He doubts he has broken the law ,as the patients all died in another country, and says he was not directly involved in the suicides, but just gave advice.

Dr Irwin has apparently turned away another 25 people because they were not terminally ill.

He intends to continue to help terminally ill Britons, unless he is told categorically that he is breaking the law.

Since the Dignitas clinic was set up in 1998, more than 450 people from across Europe have ended their lives there, including 42 from Britain.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the pro-euthanasia group Dignity in Dying, has however condemned Dr Irwin for "openly flouting" the law, and says if the law were changed there would not be this desperate situation.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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