April 4, 2011

UK: Healthy woman, 84, feared old age, chose assisted suicide

LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / News / April 4, 2011

By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent

The assisted suicide of a woman who wanted to escape old age has re-ignited the debate about euthanasia.

Nan Maitland, 84, a right-to-die campaigner, was not terminally ill but suffered from arthritis and said her life consisted of ‘more pain than pleasure’.

She was helped to commit suicide in Switzerland by Dr Michael Irwin, a former GP and euthanasia campaigner who has assisted in the deaths of at least eight others.

Mrs Maitland’s death will present a fresh challenge to Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, who has so far declined to prosecute anyone for assisting in suicides at Swiss clinics such as Dignitas.

Dr Irwin, who was struck off the medical register six years ago for attempting to help someone kill himself, has previously made his involvement in deaths known to the Crown Prosecution Service.

There are two organisations offering death to foreigners in Switzerland: Dignitas, near Zurich, and Ex International, a smaller clinic in Bern. Mrs Maitland, a former occupational therapist and founding member of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, chose not to name the organisation which assisted in her death to avoid publicising it.

'Dr Death': Mrs Maitland was helped by Dr Michael Irwin, a former GP and euthanasia campaigner

The mother-of-three left a note which said: ‘By the time you read this, with the help of the good Swiss, I will have gone to sleep.

‘For some time, my life has consisted of more pain than pleasure and over the next months and years the pain will be more and the pleasure less.

‘I have a great feeling of relief that I will have no further need to struggle through each day in dread of what further horrors may lie in wait.’

Mrs Maitland, who was separated from her husband, continued: ‘Please be happy for me that I have been able to escape from this, for me, unbearable future.’ She is said to have had a three-hour meal with friends at a five-star hotel in Switzerland before going to the clinic in a chauffeur-driven limousine.

Among those with her was Dr Irwin, 79, a fellow leader of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide.

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Copyright: Associated Newspapers Ltd