Arrested euthanasia chairman quits post

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The Independent Online

An organisation that campaigns for euthanasia has accepted the resignation of its chairman after it emerged he was under police investigation following the death of a friend.

Dr Michael Irwin, a retired GP, stepped down as leader of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. He has allegedly admitted his part in a plan to help a terminally ill friend to kill himself.

Dr Irwin faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of conspiring to help prostate cancer sufferer and fellow activist Patrick Kneen take his own life.

Yesterday the society said it had unanimously agreed to accept Dr Irwin's resignation as chairman and board member.

Gilly Vincent, the acting chairman, said: "The central purpose of VES must be to campaign for a change in the law so that terminally ill people have greater choice at the end of life.

"The board agreed Dr Irwin's conduct was incompatible with his continuing as a director of VES. The board has now accepted his resignation and is appreciative of his contribution in resolving this issue."

Dr Irwin is said to have admitted he flew to the Isle of Man two months ago equipped with enough sleeping pills to enable Mr Kneen to commit suicide.

But the plan was scrapped when it was realised Mr Kneen was so ill he could only take the pills with help, which would constitute murder. Mr Kneen died shortly afterwards with no assistance.

The case came to police attention soon after Mr Kneen's death when his wife Pat wrote a letter to her local newspaper. The letter was never published, but Mrs Kneen was arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of aiding and abetting suicide.

Dr Irwin was arrested at his Surrey home last week. He and Mrs Kneen now face prosecution in what could become a test case in euthanasia law.