'Dr Death' won't be charged over assisted suicide

A former GP dubbed Doctor Death will not be prosecuted for assisting a terminally ill man to commit suicide.

Dr Michael Irwin, 79, paid £1,500 towards the cost of 58-year-old Raymond Cutkelvin's death at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.



He vowed to highlight the "hypocritical British system" surrounding euthanasia as he was arrested and questioned by police.



Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said there is sufficient evidence to prosecute him but it would not be in the public interest.



Mr Cutkelvin's partner of 28 years, Alan Cutkelvin Rees, was also told he will not face prosecution.









Mr Cutkelvin, of Hackney, east London, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour of the pancreas in 2006 and died the following year at the clinic.



Mr Starmer said no criminal complaint was made about Mr Cutkelvin's death and police only began an inquiry after a newspaper article was published.



He said Mr Rees collected information, used a joint account to pay more than £3,000 towards the costs and accompanied Mr Cutkelvin to Switzerland.



But he said the dead man was "strong-minded" and made an "informed decision" to commit suicide "without any pressure" from Mr Rees or anyone else.



He said: "Mr Rees acted throughout as a supportive and loving partner and was wholly motivated by compassion."



Speaking about Dr Irwin, he said the circumstances were more complex, but that he too should not be prosecuted.



He said Dr Irwin cooperated with police and but already has a caution for assisting suicide.



Mr Starmer said at his age it is unlikely a court would impose anything other than a "nominal penalty".



He said: "As I have stated previously, applying the policy is not simply a matter of adding the factors for and against prosecution - they must be considered in the unique circumstances of each case and nothing in this decision should be taken as an indication that particular acts will not be investigated in the future or that they would not form the basis for a charge on other facts."









Dr Irwin was struck off the medical register in 2005 by the General Medical Council (GMC).



He had travelled to the Isle of Man with the intention of giving his friend, Patrick Kneen, up to 60 Temazepam sleeping pills to help him die.



But Mr Kneen, who was in his late 70s and had prostate cancer, was too ill to take the class C drug and died a few days later while in a coma.



The GMC struck Dr Irwin off the medical register, saying his actions had been "unprofessional", "inappropriate" and "irresponsible".



Dr Irwin, of Cranleigh, Surrey, stood down as chairman of the then Voluntary Euthanasia Society, now renamed Dignity in Dying, after receiving a police caution.



In March, the son of conductor Sir Edward Downes was told he would not be charged with assisting his suicide after booking their hotel room and accompanying them.



Sir Edward died with his wife, Lady Joan Downes, at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on July 10 last year.



Mr Starmer said there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Caractacus Downes but it was not in the public interest to do so.



Mr Starmer published new guidelines in February that outlined that motive should be at the centre of any decision over assisted suicide.



They stated that anyone acting with compassion to help end the life of someone who has decided they cannot go on is unlikely to face criminal charges.



The document was published after a Law Lords ruling in favour of Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis.



She wanted to know whether her husband would be prosecuted for helping her to end her life.



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













Sarah Wootton, of Dignity in Dying, said: "Dignity in Dying believe 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.



"The decision not to prosecute either Mr Rees or Dr Irwin demonstrates that following the Director of Public Prosecutions' guidelines on assisting a suicide, compassionate assistance to die is unlikely to result in a prosecution.



"However, Parliament cannot continue to bury its heads in the sand and pretend that people are not taking drastic and sometimes dangerous decisions.



"Not only are Britons travelling abroad to die, but here in the UK terminally ill patients, their loved ones and their doctors are taking matters into their own hands."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution