A flagship BBC TV News report on a bid to legalise euthanasia has been condemned by the Care Not Killing Alliance, the umbrella body opposed to dilution of laws protecting seriously ill and vulnerable people.

In a letter to Michael Grade, the BBC Chairman, CNK dismisses the Ten O'Clock News lead item as "factually inaccurate and one-sided".

It is demanding an apology from the BBC and correction of the factual errors in the news report fronted by Health Correspondent Fergus Walsh and presenter Fiona Bruce.

CNK director Dr Peter Saunders says in his letter that most of the BBC's coverage of the House of Lords debate and vote on Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill on 12th May was fair and balanced, but standards of impartiality slipped badly in the late evening news bulletin.

"The programme, especially the two-way between Fiona Bruce and Fergus Walsh, was superficial, unfair, factually inaccurate, poorly researched, one-sided and ultimately unprofessional," Dr Saunders says in his letter.

He is particularly critical of Mr Walsh, who has been praised by the official spokesman of Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society).

"In giving comments, Fergus Walsh's own personal sympathy with the pro-euthanasia lobby was clearly evident and he seemed to have no knowledge of issues raised in the debate during the day. He is of course entitled to his personal convictions, but as a BBC employee should not allow these to detract from giving an objective and balanced account of the issues," Dr Saunders says.

He added: "I am afraid that the biased nature of the Ten O'Clock News report will only fuel the widespread impression among opponents of the Bill that influential people within the BBC are in thrall to a libertarian, politically correct view of the world. In this case they let their personal prejudices deny some five million viewers a balanced and professional picture of the arguments advanced on both sides of this highly contentious measure."

Although the Joffe Bill was defeated heavily in the Lords, CNK believes that the pro-euthanasia lobby has not abandoned its long and so far unsuccessful campaign to change the law.

In his letter summarising the CNK's complaint, Dr Saunders lists seven serious flaws in the BBC report.

  1. Public opinion polls supporting the pro-euthanasia position were presented uncritically without any mention of a significant recent poll showing the exact opposite.
  2. No mention was made of the fact that medical opinion is firmly opposed to any change in the law.
  3. The opposition to euthanasia was caricatured as being solely religious, whereas in fact it is broad-based.
  4. Our side of the argument was not put; for example the right to die becoming a duty to die, and that it is virtually always possible to kill the pain without killing the patient.
  5. There was little mention of the contribution of palliative care and the fact that requests for assisted dying are extremely rare when patients' physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs are properly catered for.
  6. The highly controversial case of Dr Ann Turner (whose life was ended by doctor-assisted suicide in a Swiss clinic) was used uncritically, and it was not pointed out that she would not have qualified under the proposed law for assisted suicide anyway.
  7. The implication that this vote was only a temporary setback trivialised parliamentary procedure and the margin of the Bill's defeat in the Lords. There is no way that a Bill can be brought back immediately after a heavy defeat and it was quite simply political nonsense to suggest this.

Copies of Dr Saunders letter to Mr Grade and his detailed rebuttal of the BBC Ten O'Clock News report are also available on this site: