Doc invites prosecution over assisted suicide

A retired British doctor has invited England’s top prosecutor to charge him for assisting a suicide, but critics fear the case is part of a wider campaign to change the law.

In a brazen move Dr Michael Irwin wrote to Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, admitting helping terminally ill Raymond Cutkelvin commit suicide at the Dignitas facility in Switzerland.

The retired doctor, who gave Mr Cutkelvin £1,500 towards the cost of killing himself at the Dignitas facility, wants to make a test case from his role in Mr Cutkelvin’s death.


In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, Dr Irwin states: “I sent my cheque directly to Dignitas, an organisation which acts within the Swiss legal system, and fortunately is willing to help non-Swiss nationals.”

A prosecution would make Dr Irwin the first person to be charged for assisting a suicide since the DPP issued new guidance earlier this year on when cases of assisted suicide are likely to be prosecuted.


The guidance lists six factors against prosecutions and 16 factors in favour of prosecutions.

In Dr Irwin’s case the factors in favour of prosecution include that the “suspect was unknown to the victim and encouraged or assisted the victim to commit or attempt to commit suicide by providing specific information” and that the “suspect gave encouragement or assistance to more than one victim who were not known to each other”.

Dr Irwin, formerly the chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now known as Dignity in Dying), was one of three people who helped Mr Cutkelvin travel to the suicide clinic.

However, legal experts believe that the retired doctor is the most likely to be prosecuted because he didn’t know the victim before he became involved in assisting his suicide.


However, Dr Irwin remains defiant and speaking to the Sunday Telegraph he said: “I expect to be charged and I want to be charged. I accept that technically I may have broken the law, but it’s a weak, non-law.”

But Nuala Scarisbrick, from the anti-euthanasia group Life, insisted that the law must be enforced.

She said: “We are opposed to any form of ‘assisted suicide’. The law must be enforced, particularly if someone has admitted breaking it.”


Dr Irwin was originally arrested and released on bail for the death last summer.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime Division is currently examining the case against Dr Irwin, and a decision is expected later this month.


Last month 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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