Belfast Telegraph

Film sparks 'right-to-die' debate

Right-to-die campaigners have backed the BBC after it was accused of "acting like a cheerleader" for assisted suicide.

A BBC2 documentary, presented by best-selling author Sir Terry Pratchett, will show the last moments of a terminally ill man who travelled to an assisted suicide clinic to end his life.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of charity Care Not Killing, said it was "regrettable" to show a death on screen and added he was "concerned" the documentary would not be balanced.

He said: "The BBC is acting like a cheerleader for legalising assisted suicide."

Sir Terry, who was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's disease in 2008, describes himself as "a firm believer in assisted death".

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying, supported the planned broadcast. She said: "Dignity in Dying campaigns to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults only.

"Claims today suggest it is irresponsible to screen a documentary which explores assisted death; I believe it is irresponsible not to be discussing this issue and therefore driving it further underground. People are taking desperate and dangerous decisions at the end of their lives; travelling abroad to die or attempting to end their lives at home, often alone for fear of their loved ones facing prosecution."

Viewers of the show will see the writer at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with the 71-year-old motor neurone disease sufferer named only as Peter.

Sir Terry said: "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 hour-long film, to be broadcast in the summer, he compares how different European countries deal with the issue.

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