Critics divided over TV assisted suicide

By Carla Simpson

Dunedin Napier News spoke to two campaigners today about their views on last night’s controversial broadcast of an assisted suicide on Sky TV.

Craig Ewart, who suffered from motor neurone disease, travelled to Switzerland to end his life with the help of the organisation Dignitas.  It is believed to be the first time the instant of a person’s death in an assisted suicide has been shown on British television.

Dominica Roberts, spokeswoman for Pro Life Alliance UK. prolife

What message does last night’s broadcast send out?

It puts an enormous number of peoples’ lives at risk, such as those who are vulnerable and have little choice whether they should live or die.  The programme sent out a very dangerous message and shows a skewed approach towards assisted suicide.  We understand that some people wish to know about the issue, but broadcasting it in this way results in an advert for suicide.

What will it bring to the ongoing euthanasia debate?

It’s a fact that the number of teenage suicides has risen since assisted suicide became legal in countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands.  People who have depression and those who may have considered killing themselves in the past may be encouraged by this programme that suicide is the only answer, rather than seeking help.

Do you think there is a demand for media coverage of assisted suicide?

It’s gripping television for some people, and it has sold a lot of newspapers.  One man’s wish to die makes better publicity than the hundreds of thousands of people who get the excellent care available in this country.  The media should provide more coverage on the great work of hospices in the UK instead.

Dr Michael Irwin, Friends at the End
Dr Michael Irwin, Friends at the End

Dr. Michael Irwin, Friends at the End Council Member and former chairman of Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

What message does last night’s broadcast send out?

The programme showed how dignified and peaceful that assisted suicide can be.  It was a fantastic decision to show the programme, as it proves that euthanasia is about choice. The arrogant, anti-choice lobby who believe it was grotesque need to face the fact that people die and there is no point in hiding away from death.

What will it bring to the ongoing euthanasia debate?

The more we discuss the issue the better.  This broadcast shows everyone that no one is forced or rushed to end their life in this way, and we can only welcome the fact that more people want to debate it now.

Do you think there is a demand for media coverage of assisted suicide?

As far as Friends at the End is concerned, more media interest can only be a positive thing.  What we need to ask is, if you were in the same situation as those wishing to end their lives, would you like the choice?  It is a personal matter and if it is legally possible elsewhere, why can’t it work here?