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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 January 2006, 16:22 GMT
GP praises right-to-die pensioner
Dr Michael Irwin
Dr Michael Irwin was at Mrs Murphy's side when she took her life
A struck-off doctor who accompanied a Glasgow pensioner when she died in an assisted suicide has paid tribute to the 75-year-old.

It has emerged that May Murphy, who had a degenerative disease, took a lethal dose of barbiturates at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland in August,

Dr Michael Irwin, 74, said she had been "wonderful and jovial".

The GP was removed from the medical register last year for obtaining drugs to help a friend die.

He has said he was being investigated by police for advising and supporting five people from the UK who were considering visiting the clinic.

The doctor, a former UN medical director and head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, has already received a police caution for his actions.

I hope that I will be questioned by the police
Dr Michael Irwin

He said the General Medical Council's decision to strike him off meant nothing to him as he was already retired, and that he was not afraid to go to prison for his beliefs.

Police contacted their Swiss counterparts this week to establish the circumstances surrounding the assisted suicide of retired doctor Anne Turner, from Somerset, at the Zurich clinic.

Dr Irwin told the Daily Record of Mrs Murphy's final moments.

He said: "She was amazing. So cheerful, so light, so determined to go ahead.

"Although I had helped five other people to get their paperwork in order for Dignitas, I'd never seen anyone actually commit suicide before."

He added: "I found it fascinating. As a doctor, you learn to be emotionally detached.

"Being with May in that flat I was amazed by how dignified and peaceful her death appeared to be."

Dr Irwin said earlier that suicide was never a crime in Scotland, so there was no offence of aiding and abetting or counselling a suicide under Scots law.

Mrs Murphy was said to be jubilant about dying (Daily Record)
Mrs Murphy was said to be "jovial" about dying

"I wanted to highlight the issue that there is a difference even in the UK between two parts of the country and I hope that I will be questioned by the police."

He added: "I think this will be a very fascinating medical legal situation."

Campaign group Friends at the End (Fate) said the case highlighted the need for UK politicians to change the law to allow seriously ill patients to die at home with family and other loved ones.

The body's spokeswoman Dr Libby Wilson said: "May had been ill for two or three years and had joined before the diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy.

"It's a terrible disease, everything starts packing up except your brain.

"She was 100% focused and even considered going public but decided not to, to avoid people bothering her family."

Dr Anne Turner
Dr Turner killed herself at the same Swiss clinic

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said it would be for police to decide whether to begin an investigation.

A spokeswoman added: "If anyone has any information about any suspected criminal activities it should be reported to the police in the first instance.

"While there is no statutory crime of assisted suicide in Scots law, actions to aid a person in ending their life could result in proceedings for culpable homicide."

Strathclyde Police said it was unable to comment.

Since the Dignitas clinic was set up in 1998, more than 450 people from across Europe have ended their lives there, including more than 40 from Britain.

Opponents of assisted suicide said it was wrong to take human life in this way and argued that good quality palliative care was the right approach.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A campaigner defends assisted suicide



SEE ALSO:
Clinic assists doctor's suicide
24 Jan 06 |  Health
Euthanasia doctor is struck off
27 Sep 05 |  Health
Dignitas: Swiss suicide helpers
24 Jan 06 |  Health
Pretty 'refused aid-to-die offer'
11 May 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts


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