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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 08:43 GMT
Arrested euthanasia chairman resigns
An organisation campaigning for euthanasia has accepted the resignation of its chairman after it emerged he was under police investigation following the death of a friend.

Leading euthanasia campaigner Dr Michael Irwin resigned as chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) after he admitted to conspiring to help fellow activist Patrick Kneen kill himself.

The retired GP, from Cranleigh, in Surrey, could face a jail sentence of up to 14 years for his involvement in Mr Kneen's death.

On Wednesday the VES said it had unanimously agreed to accept the resignation of Dr Irwin.

The Board agreed Dr Irwin's conduct was incompatible with his continuing as a director of VES
Gilly Vincent, acting chairman

Acting chairman Gilly Vincent 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 has admitted he flew to the Isle of Man two months ago equipped with enough sleeping pills to enable Mr Kneen to commit suicide.

Vital test case

But the plan was abandoned when it became apparent Mr Kneen, who had prostate cancer, was so ill he would not have been able to take the pills without help.

That would have opened up the possibility of a murder charge

Mr Kneen died shortly afterwards with no assistance.

The case came to police attention shortly after Mr Kneen's death when his wife Pat wrote a letter to her local newspaper which was never published.

But she was arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of aiding and abetting suicide.

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

Dr Irwin, a former United Nations adviser, said his actions had embarrassed the VES, which aims to work within the law.

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