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Dignity in Dying statement on the non-prosecution of Alan Rees and Dr Michael Irwin

Dignity in Dying believes that
terminally ill, mentally competent adults should have the choice of an assisted
death, within legal safeguards, and crucially that we must work within the law
to change the law.

Alan Rees and Dr Irwin
accompanied Mr Cutkelvin to Dignitas in 2007. He was dying from
pancreatic cancer and was receiving palliative care, but continued to suffer
unbearably. It is for people like Ray that Dignity in Dying campaigns for
this law change.

Dr Irwin and Mr Rees have been
under investigation for 11 months for assisting Mr Cutkelvin to travel to
Dignitas for an assisted death. Today the Crown Prosecution Service has
decided not to prosecute either Alan Rees or Dr Irwin. While they had
evidence to prosecute, they decided it was not in the public interest to do so.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of
Dignity in Dying said:

“Dignity in Dying believes 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 head 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.

“The 1961 Suicide Act is 50 years
old next year and needs updating. The only way to better protect
potentially vulnerable people, and ensure that no one suffers against their
wishes at the end of their life is to introduce a safeguarded assisted dying
for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Dignity in Dying will
continue to campaign within the law to change the law which would better
protect people by shining a light on end-of-life decision-making.”

Notes to

About Dignity
in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice,
    control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing
    terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict
    legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and
    receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • Surveys consistently show that at least 80% of
    the UK population supports a change in the law on assisted dying.
  • The General Medical Council (GMC) define terminal
    illness as: ‘patient’s are ‘approaching the end of life’ when they are
    likely to die within the next 12 months. This includes patients
    whose death is imminent (expected within a few hours or days) and those
    with: A) advanced, progressive, incurable conditions. B) general frailty
    and co-existing conditions that mean they are expected to die within 12
    months. C) existing conditions if they are at risk of dying from a sudden
    acute crisis in their condition. D) life-threatening acute conditions
    caused by catastrophic events.
  • Dr Irwin is a former Chair of the Voluntary
    Euthanasia Society (VES). He stepped down from the Board of VES in
    2005 because he didn’t agree with the organisation’s policy to work within
    the law to change the law.


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