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19th April 2011

BBC accused of being 'cheerleader for assisted suicide' after filming man killing himself in Terry Pratchett documentary

BBC accused of being 'cheerleader for assisted suicide' after filming man killing himself in Terry Pratchett documentary
Copyright @ The Daily Mail
By Liz Thomas
15th April 2011

The BBC stands accused of being 'a cheerleader for assisted suicide' after filming a man killing himself at the notorious Dignitas clinic for a controversial documentary.

Sir Terry Pratchett, a prominent supporter of euthanasia, presents the programme which follows a man in the late stages of motor neurone disease as he travels from Britain to the Swiss clinic.

The popular fantasy novelist - who himself has Alzheimer's - remains at the 71-year-old's bedside until he succumbs to the cocktail of drugs he has taken to end his life.

Screening the moment of a suicide victim's death is a first for terrestrial television. The programme is due to be broadcast on BBC2 this summer, a move condemned by campaigners, politicians, medical professionals and religious leaders.

They accused the corporation of being unethical, promoting assisted death and euthanasia, and disregarding the sanctity of life.

Dr Peter Saunders, director of charity Care Not Killing, said: 'The BBC is acting like a cheerleader for legalising assisted suicide.

'It is regrettable that a man's death will be shown on screen but we are also concerned that this documentary will not be balanced.

'Given Sir Terry Pratchett's position, the fear is that it will show all the supposed benefits of assisted death with very little redress.'

The documentary, entitled Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die, has already been filmed. Viewers will see the man, named only as Peter, struggle to cope with his illness, which leads to loss of mobility and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.

They will then see his final days and hours in Switzerland.

Sir Terry said: 'I am a firm believer in assisted death. I believe everybody possessed of a debilitating and incurable disease should be allowed to pick the hour of their death. And I wanted to know more about Dignitas in case I ever wanted to go there myself.'

In the film the 62-year-old best-selling novelist, who was diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's in 2008, compares the legal position on assisted suicide in other countries and talks to those opposed to the practice, which is currently illegal in the UK.

In theory he could face prosecution - and a prison sentence of as much as 14 years - for simply being present at Peter's suicide and failing to stop it.

The Director of Public Prosecutions recently revised rules stating that it is illegal to help anyone kill themselves by saying he would effectively not prosecute if the motivation of relatives and friends is shown to be purely compassionate and there is no personal gain.

It is not clear if Sir Terry received a fee for the programme.

Phyllis Bowman, Right to Life campaigner, echoed fears that the BBC is biased on the topic.

She said: 'The BBC has an agenda - it has had one for years. Allowing Sir Terry Pratchett to make this documentary is effectively promoting assisted death.

'My worry is that it will be presented as the preferable option, or the right thing to do when people feel they are getting old or infirm.

'Having someone who is so well known to be in favour of legalising this process means assisted death will be shown in a positive light.'

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries warned that the BBC was in danger of 'normalising a very serious issue'.

She said: 'It is pushing back a moral boundary. A programme like this will romanticise assisted death and dying.

'This is an authored piece so it will be one-sided. I hope the BBC is thinking of ways it can present the counter-argument.'

The BBC defended the decision to show the last moments of a man's life. A spokesman said: 'Death is an important part of the human experience and is integral to any discussions about assisted dying, which is why it is appropriate for it to be included.

'We know that watching a death can be distressing for some members of the audience, so we will ensure that clear warnings are given beforehand.'

The BBC denied it was a 'cheerleader' for assisted death. The spokesman said: 'The BBC doesn't have a stance on assisted suicide, but we do think that this is an important matter of debate.'

Last year the BBC faced accusations that it had an 'agenda' on assisted suicide after it broadcast a speech by Sir Terry on the issue .

In 2009 pro-life groups protested at the BBC's screening of a drama about assisted suicide the night before MPs debated the issue.

In 2008 Sky showed the death of motor neurone sufferer Craig Ewert at Dignitas.

More than 100 Britons have so far gone abroad to die at the clinic.



Why I told the Daily Mail that the BBC was acting as the 'cheerleader' for assisted suicide, Dr Peter Saunders, 16 April 2011
Why are the Left (and the BBC) so keen to promote this ghoulish culture of death? The Daily Mail, 18 April 2011

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