First Briton ends life through assisted suicide at Dignitas because of dementia

83-year-old travelled to Swiss clinic with family

An 83-year-old-man is believed to be the first Briton to end his life through an assisted suicide at a Dignitas clinic because he was in the early stages of dementia.

His family, none of whom have been named, supported his decision to end his life, according to pro-euthanasia campaigner Michael Irwin, 81, a retired GP who helped secure a psychiatric evaluation for him in January.

Mr Irwin said the man’s wife made all of the travel arrangements and accompanied her husband to the Switzerland-based clinic, where he ended his life. Mr Irwin did not accompany the family. Although he did not want to reveal the identity of the family or any personal details, speaking to The Independent, he did say that the man was mentally capable of choosing to end his own life.

Mr Irwin said: “The family have been very supportive of his decision.

"He was a sensible, professional person in the early stages of dementia and knew what dementia will involve. The family are very pleased that it all happened the way he wanted it, with dignity.”

Mr Irwin was approached by the man's family in January this year requesting his help in finding a psychiatrist to perform an evaluation. A psychiatrist reviewed the man’s metal capabilities and established that he was mentally competent. His wife then organised their travel arrangements to Switzerland.

The Dignitas association was established in 1998 and offers anyone who has an incurable or unendurable illness an assisted suicide at their Swiss or German clinics. Since beginning 15 years ago, they have assisted approximately 200 British suicides.

To receive assistance from Dignitas, people are required to become members of the association, prove that they are of sound mind and judgement and possess a minimum level of mobility in order to self-administer the fatal drug used in the suicide.

Those who apply for an assisted suicide and pass all required evaluations from doctors and psychiatrists are flown over to the clinic and provided with a lethal barbiturate which is dissolved into drinking water.

Whilst assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, it is a criminal offence in the UK and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. Mr Irwin has travelled to Dignitas with four families and was investigated by authorities over his involvement in the assisted suicide of Raymond Cutkelvin, but has never been arrested or charged with an offence.

He said: “I’ve been campaigning since the mid-1990s. I was a chairman of what is now called Dignity in Dying from 1996 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2003. I’m a retired GP, so I think it should be every person’s right to have the option of a dignified death. In four European countries it is possible for terminally ill, disabled and unwell, elderly people to have a dignified doctor assisted suicide – are we so different to the Dutch? I don’t think so.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral