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Wellcome Library

Voluntary Euthanasia Society


Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/VES

Held at: Wellcome Library

Title: Voluntary Euthanasia Society

Date(s): 1931-1990

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 19 boxes, 2 films, 2 reels of microfilm, and an outsize folder and volume.

Name of creator(s): Voluntary Euthanasia Society x Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society x Euthanasia Society x EXIT: the Society for the right to die with dignity x Dignity in Dying


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1931 Dr Charles Killick Millard, Medical Officer of Health for Leicester gave a presidential address to the Society of Medical Officers of Health, on voluntary euthanasia. His speech was printed in pamphlet form with an introduction by Sir William Arbuthnot Lane. Millard advocated the passing of an Act of Parliament to legalise euthanasia on a voluntary basis for the terminally ill, and included the draft of a bill with his paper.

In 1935 the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society was founded in Leicester with C J Bond as Chairman, Charles Killick Millard as Honorary Secretary and Lord Moynihan as President and in 1936 the first Voluntary Euthanasia (Legalisation) Bill was introduced into Parliament.

In 1941 the membership of the Society was over 1000 but the activities of the Society were curtailed by the War. Also to counteract the bad name given to euthanasia by Hitler's policies, the Society found it necessary to issue a statement pointing out that they only advocated euthanasia on a strictly voluntary basis for the already dying.

In 1949 the Society petitioned the United Nations to include the right to voluntary euthanasia in the Declaration of Human Rights.

The Society became known as EXIT but reverted to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and continued to campaign for the right of individuals to a death with dignity and to propagate this controversial subject. In 2006 the Society changed its name to Dignity in Dying.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, 1931-1990, comprising administrative papers, publicity materials, films, minutes, annual reports, publications, press cuttings and microfilm of press cuttings, correspondence, and the papers of Dr Charles Killick Millard.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows:

A Records of the Society 1935-1974

B Publications and publicity 1931-1990

C Papers of members of the Society:

- C/1-4 C. Killick Millard 1931-1950

- C/5-6 Dr Saul Crown c.1950s-1980s

- C/7 Miss L. Dorling Bone c.1950s-1980s

- C/8-13 Miss Blackett 1955-1970

- C/17 Rev. A.B. Downing c.1957-1971

- C/13 Professor Eliot Slater 1969-1973

- C/16-21 Dr G.C. Bertram 1947-1988

D Files of the Society 1956-1978

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Physical characteristics:

The collection includes 2 films, 2 reels of microfilm, and an outsize folder and volume.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:

Duplicate items have been weeded.


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were received by the Wellcome Library in 1981 from Nicholas Reed, General Secretary of EXIT, the Society for the Right to Die with Dignity, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society / the Euthanasia Society / the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (to which last name it has reverted).

Additional papers relating to the Society were received in 1992 from Dr G C Bertram.


Existence and location of originals:

In 1996 the Society allowed microfilm copies to be made of cuttings files from the 1970s and 1980s. The original cuttings were destroyed after filming except one file retained for exhibition.

Existence and location of copies:

The catalogue is available on microfiche via the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).

Related material:

Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Society and Annual General Meetings since 1974 are retained at the Society's offices.


Archivist's note: Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: June 2008

Assisted suicide | Diseases | Pathology
Euthanasia | Right to life | Civil and political rights | Human rights

Personal names
Millard | Charles Killick | 1870-1952 | advocate of voluntary euthanasia

Corporate names
Dignity in Dying x EXIT: the Society for the right to die with dignity x Voluntary Euthanasia Society x Euthanasia Society x Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society