Doc escapes trial over assisted suicide death

A retired GP who helped a cancer stricken man kill himself will not face trial, despite there being enough evidence to “provide a realistic” prospect of conviction.

Earlier this year Dr Michael Irwin wrote to Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and admitted helping terminally ill Raymond Cutkelvin commit suicide at the Dignitas facility in Switzerland.

But last Friday Mr Starmer, drawing on assisted suicide prosecution guidelines published earlier this year, announced that Dr Irwin wouldn’t stand trial because it was “highly unlikely” that a court would jail a 79-year-old man.


The decision has alarmed critics who fear that assisted suicide is being legalised by the back door.

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, warned: “This shows what happens when the law is not clear-cut. These guidelines have allowed people to manipulate the law.

“The assisted suicide law is there to protect the most vulnerable – they need help.”


She added: “You don’t decide not to prosecute just because someone’s old, if they’ve committed a crime. But if he is found guilty then his age is fed into the mitigating factors.”

Her concerns were echoed by a spokesman for the Care Not Killing Alliance who said: “We are concerned about every case and we expect the DPP to investigate every single case and to apply the law.”

Dr Irwin gave Mr Cutkelvin and his homosexual partner £1,500 to enable him to end his life at the Swiss Dignitas facility, and he also accompanied the couple to Switzerland.


Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of the pro-euthanasia group Dignity in Dying, defended Dr Irwin’s actions, saying: “Dignity in Dying believes that people should not be forced to take the law into their own hands to have what they consider to be a dignified death.

“Furthermore, terminally ill adults suffering at the end of life should not have to travel abroad to die.”

Dr Irwin, who has helped at least nine people kill themselves, was originally arrested and released on bail for the death last summer.

Mr Starmer also ruled that Alan Rees, Mr Cutkelvin’s civil partner, should not face trial for his part in assisting Mr Cutkelvin’s suicide because he was “wholly motivated by compassion”.


Earlier this year it was revealed that the son of renowned conductor Sir Edward Downes, who helped his parents commit suicide, would not be prosecuted under the DPP’s new guidance.

Mr Starmer revealed that Caractacus Downes would not be prosecuted despite there being sufficient evidence, claiming that a prosecution would not be in the public interest.

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