THE VETERAN broadcaster Sir Ludovic Kennedy has resigned as president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society amid a bitter row over the leadership and direction of Britain's largest right-to-die organisation.
Sir Ludovic, a lifelong supporter of euthanasia, has sent a "blistering" letter of resignation to the society after the board voted to expel its former chairman Michael Irwin, who has admitted helping terminally ill patients to contact Dignitas, the controversial assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.
The row has caused a seismic split within the society at a time when the law on euthanasia is under review by both the courts and Parliament.
Campaigners are divided over whether they should support organisations such as Dignitas or merely continue advocating "living wills" which state a person's wishes about the withdrawal of treatment in their final days.
Dr Irwin stepped down as chairman earlier this year after he was arrested on suspicion of helping a terminally ill friend to commit suicide, but had continued as a board member. But insiders at the society said Dr Irwin angered the society's chief executive, Deborah Annetts, by giving an interview to The Independent in which he admitted advising at least five people with terminal illnesses on how to be accepted by Dignitas.
The clinic provides an apartment with a "death room" and supplies of lethal drugs with which patients can kill themselves. The society has distanced itself from Dignitas and will not give callers to its helpline any information or advice about the organisation.
At the closed board meeting last Thursday evening, four members, including another doctor, voted against Dr Irwin's expulsion, while six elected to oust him.
As president, Sir Ludovic did not have a vote but was reportedly "furious" at the result. He told members that he intended to resign in support of Dr Irwin and sent his letter to the society at the weekend. Yesterday he told The Independent: "I have resigned. I will be issuing …