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No prosecution for assisted-suicide doctor

25 June 2010

A retired GP who paid for a patient to fly out to Switzerland to end his life will not be prosecuted under the new assisted suicide guidelines, the CPS has announced.

Dr Irwin, a former medical director with the UN, funded Raymond Cutkelvin’s trip to the Dignitas clinic in February 2007.

The 79-year-old doctor and right-to-die campaigner challenged the police to arrest him and has been on bail for the past 11 months.

He told Solicitors Journal he had “mixed feelings” about the CPS decision and that he will “carry on bleating for a change in the law”.

“It’s good to have resolution after being on bail for 11 months, but it would have been good to have a day in court to explain why I helped Raymond,” he said.

The latest CPS policy on assisted dying, published in March, say that individuals who acted out of compassion and had nothing to gain financially from the victim’s death are unlikely to be prosecuted.

One of the new factors in favour of prosecution, however, requires prosecutors to consider whether “the suspect was acting in his or her capacity as a medical doctor, nurse, other healthcare professional”.

Dr Irwin said he thought he could have been prosecuted because he had only known Raymond Cutkelvin for a short time.

He said he would continue to campaign for a change in the law to move away from the two-tier system that current rules had created.

“If you have the money you can go abroad, if not you can’t; ultimately we need a change in the law,” he said.

Meanwhile, there is still no news about another doctor, Libby Wilson, who provided telephone assistance to an MS sufferer who killed herself with helium in June last year.

Dr Wilson has been on police bail since September 2009. The latest extension is due to expire on 9 July.

She told Solicitors Journal the police had been in touch with the CPS following the announcement in relation to Dr Irwin this morning. The CPS said they still had not come to a decision.

The woman to whom she provided guidance had tried and failed to kill herself twice by taking an overdose of painkillers and did not want to fail again.

She said the MS sufferer got in touch with her and that she had not known her before.

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