Writer defends assisted death film
Sir Terry Pratchett has defended his documentary about assisted suicide, which showed the death of a millionaire hotelier who was suffering from motor neurone disease.
In the BBC Two film, the 63-year-old writer, who has Alzheimer's, went to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to see the man take a lethal dose of barbiturates.
Asked why he wanted to make the film, the Discworld author told BBC Breakfast: "Because I was appalled at the current situation. I know that assisted dying is practised in at least three places in Europe and also in the United States. The Government here has always turned its back on it and I was ashamed that British people had to drag themselves to Switzerland, at considerable cost, in order to get the services that they were hoping for."
The film, In Choosing To Die, followed Peter Smedley, 71, from his mansion in Guernsey to the Dignitas clinic, which over the last 12 years has helped 1,100 people to die.
Director Charlie Russell said it was ultimately the BBC's choice to screen the film. He said: "As a film-maker I felt that it was the truth of the matter. Unfortunately we do all die. It's not necessarily very nice but that is what happens to us all so I think it is quite important to see it."
A Dignity in Dying spokeswoman, who has described the documentary as "deeply moving and at times difficult to watch", said she believed the publicity before the programme had helped.
"People who did not want to watch it did not have to watch and were not confronted with something they did not want to see," she said, adding: "It certainly shows that Dignitas is not an ideal option for people and we would rather people had the choice of dying at home at a time and in a manner of their choosing."
But anti-euthanasia campaigners have complained about the film's portrayal of assisted suicide. Alistair Thompson, a spokesman for the Care Not Killing Alliance pressure group, said: "This is pro-assisted suicide propaganda loosely dressed up as a documentary."
Mr Thompson accused the BBC of repeatedly giving voice to pro-euthanasia views and claimed this is the fifth BBC programme in three years presented by a pro-euthanasia campaigner or sympathiser. He said: "The evidence is that the more you portray this, the more suicides you will have."
The BBC has denied it had any bias in the public debate over the issue.