NRL News

BBC Airs Assisted Suicide

by | Jun 14, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Terry Pratchett

By the time you read this post, television will have hit a new low. The BBC will have aired “Choosing to Die,” a documentary in which Peter Smedley, a 71-year-old millionaire hotel owner with Lou Gehrig’s disease, takes a lethal dose of barbiturates at “Dignitas,” an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.

The project is the brainchild of Sir Terry Pratchett, a science fiction writer and vocal proponent of assisted suicide , about whom we’ve written several times, most recently last month (

“This is yet another blatant example of the BBC playing the role of cheerleader in the vigorous campaign being staged by the pro-euthanasia lobby to legalise assisted suicide in Britain,” said Peter Saunders, a spokesman for the group Care Not Killing. “The BBC is actively fuelling this move to impose assisted suicide on this country and runs the risk of pushing vulnerable people over the edge into taking their lives. It is also flouting both its own guidelines on suicide portrayal and impartiality.”

If showing the documentary weren’t enough, BBC Two’s Newsnight programme will feature both an interview with Pratchett and a studio debate.

The British pro-life group SPUC sent out an advisory to its members, highlighting just some of the documentary’s flaws, based on the comments of Geoff Morris. According to SPUC:

Geoff Morris, a disabled man severely affected by multiple sclerosis, has expressed a series of scathing criticisms of the documentary, after watching an advance screening. His observations give grave cause for concern that the documentary:

presents a fictionalised picture of the Swiss suicide system;

is strongly biased in favour of this highly controversial suicide process;

fails to address any objections or alternatives to assisted suicide.

Mr Morris’ comments included the following comments about the documentary (see–saccharine-portrayal-appals-me.html?printingPage=truer ):

“shameless propaganda”

“grossly misleading and unbalanced”

“Sir Terry and the producers have presented this type of suicide as an enriching, even uplifting choice”

“a repellent exercise in deceit”

“untrue and distorted”

“fails to acknowledge any of the serious concerns about assisted suicide”

“riddled with myth-making”.

SPUC goes on to list four other examples in which it says the BBC violated “its public service duty to impartiality.” They include

“I’ll Die When I Choose”, 8 December 2008

“A Short Stay in Switzerland”, January 2009

“Shaking hands with death”, 1 February 2010, also featuring Sir Terry Pratchett

“Inside Out”, BBC West Midlands, 15 February 2010.

SPUC concludes, “By broadcasting a person’s suicide, and providing a platform for the promotion of assisted suicide. the BBC is undermining suicide prevention campaigns, including BBC and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance on media coverage regarding suicide (”

Categories: Assisted Suicide