A controversial public lecture on euthanasia has been cancelled minutes after it began when a group of over 20 protestors disrupted it.

The guest speaker Prof Len Doyal, an open proponent of both voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia, had to be escorted from the lecture theatre at Cork University Hospital by security staff.

The lecture entitled ‘Why Euthanaia should be legalised’, formed part of the annual spring series organized by CUH's Ethics Forum and started at 5pm.

As the 350 attendees were being welcomed, a group of over 20 people stood up and began shouting.

Witnesses say some began saying the rosary and one man accused Prof Doyal of being a murderer.

A decision was taken soon afterwards to cancel the lecture on public safety grounds but it took some time to get the message through to the audience because of the continuing strong vocal opposition by protestors.

Afterwards a spokeswoman for the HSE expressed disappointment that the annual lecture series which is held to stimulate debate was forced to be cancelled.

She stressed that the lecture series is not funded by the HSE but privately by the hospital's Ethics Forum and that neither the HSE or CUH or the Ethics Forum are in favour of euthanasia.

Earlier, a group of about 20 people protested peacefully at the entrance to the hospital.

The lecture has been a source of controversy for a number of weeks.