Former Surrey GP 'to help arthritis sufferer end life'

Dr Michael Irwin has helped four other people attend the clinic

7 September 2011 Last updated at 11:42

A former GP has said he will help a woman from Eastbourne travel to Switzerland to end her life even though she is not terminally ill.

Dr Michael Irwin, from Cranleigh, in Surrey, said he would help the 91-year-old who suffers from severe arthritis to travel to the Dignitas facility.

He has refused to name the woman and said he had helped four other people travel to Switzerland.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said officers would contact Dr Irwin.

He said: “When you’re in your late 80s or early 90s and you’ve got all kinds of medical problems and your quality of life has changed so much… why should you be forced to continue in that existence?

“I have spoken to this lady on several occasions on the telephone. I’ve never actually met her. It’s her decision and I don’t want to be any closer to identifying her.

“It’s her right to be anonymous.”
‘Doctor’s responsibility’

Mr Irwin, who formed pressure group Society for Old Age Rational Suicide in 2009, said he had no moral objections to assisted suicide.

He was arrested for taking Raymond Cutkelvin, of London, to die at the facility, but in June 2011 Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer decided not to prosecute saying it would not be in the public interest.

Assisting a suicide remains a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Dr Irwin added: “I’m a retired GP and I have felt that a doctor’s main responsibility is to help the patient in the best possible way.”

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “We will be getting in touch with Dr Irwin in relation to the report that he may be taking a woman abroad to be helped to die.”

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said the authority would not comment on individual cases.

He said: “If we thought the law was being broken we would inform the appropriate authorities. We would hope that anyone contemplating such action would talk to the appropriate people before doing anything.

“There could be other ways of resolving this.”

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