Michael Irwin

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For the American football player, see Michael Irvin.
Michael Irwin

Michael Henry Knox Irwin (born 5 June 1931) is a British doctor, formerly a GP and a Medical Director with the United Nations. He is a humanist and secular activist, campaigning in particular for voluntary euthanasia.


Irwin was trained at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London (graduating in 1955), and at Columbia University, New York. He was awarded a masters degree in public health from the latter in 1960.

He worked at Prince of Wales Hospital, London, from 1955-1956. In 1957 he became Medical Officer at the United Nations. In 1961 he worked with the UN in Pakistan, returning to his Medical Officer post in 1963 and rising to become Medical Director of the United Nations in 1969. He became Director of personnel at the United Nations Development Programme in 1973.

He was struck off by the UK General Medical Council in 2005 after openly admitting travelling to the Isle of Man in October 2003 with around 60 temazepam sleeping pills to assist fellow campaigner Patrick Kneen to end his life.

In April 1990 Irwin resigned from the World Bank. He wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal which detailed his complaints about the Bank. He cited in particular "the Bank's bloated, overpaid bureaucracy, its wasteful practices, and its generally poor management."


Irwin is an active supporter of euthanasia, humanism and secularism. He was interviewed by Ritula Shah about such matters in the BBC Radio 4 series One to One on 21 May 2013.

Voluntary Euthanasia[edit]

In November 1999 Irwin stood as a "Campaign for Living Will Legislation" candidate in the Kensington and Chelsea parliamentary by-election occasioned by the death of MP Alan Clark. Polling took place on 25 November, and Irwin gained 97 votes, putting him 9th out of 18 candidates. Michael Portillo was elected.

Irwin, who was President of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies from 2002-2004, and a Director of that organisation from 2004-2006, has also been Chair (1996-1999, 2001-2003) of the British Voluntary Euthanasia Society, now known as Dignity in Dying.

In December 2009, Irwin established the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS) which is promoting a discussion on the possibility of elderly, competent individuals, who are suffering from various medical problems, having a doctor legally end their lives, if this is their persistent request.

Secularism and Humanism[edit]

Irwin is a 'distinguished supporter' of the British Humanist Association.

Since 2005 Irwin has sponsored the National Secular Society's £5000 Secularist of the Year award, which is known as the Irwin Prize. In 2006 he founded the Secular Medical Forum [1].

On 15 September 2010, Irwin, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Irwin's father was William Knox Irwin FRCS, a surgeon and author of medical text books. Michael Irwin married Elizabeth Naumann in 1958; the marriage was dissolved in 1982. He married Frederica Harlow in 1983. His current partner is Angela Farmer. He has three daughters.


Collected Essays (Editor)[edit]

  • "I'll See Myself Out, Thank You": Thirty personal views in support of assisted suicide. Skyscraper Publications, 2015

"Family Doctor" Booklets[edit]

  • Travelling Without Tears. London: British Medical Association, 1964. pp.30.
  • The Truth About Cancer. London: British Medical Association, 1969. pp.31.

Public Affairs Pamphlets[edit]

  • Check-ups: safeguarding your health. no.314. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1961. pp.18.
  • Overweight: a problem for millions. no.364. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1964. pp.20.
  • Blood: new uses for saving lives. no.377. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1965. pp.28.
  • Viruses, Colds, and Flu. no.395. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1966. pp.20.
  • What Do We Know About Allergies? no. 486. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1972. pp.28.
  • Overweight: a problem for millions. Revised edition. no.364a. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1973. pp.24.
  • Aspirin: current knowledge about an old medication. no. 614. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1983. pp.24.
  • Can We Survive Nuclear War? no.625. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1984. pp.28.
  • Nuclear Energy, Good or Bad? no.629. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1984. pp.29.
  • Risks to Health and Safety on the Job. no. 644. New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1986. pp.28.

Criticism of the World Bank[edit]


  1. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian (London). 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 


Voluntary Euthanasia[edit]

Secularism and Humanism[edit]