Author Terry Pratchett defends right-to-die film

June 14, 2011 By JILL LAWLESS , Associated Press
Author Sir Terry Pratchett, poses in London, in this Feb. 1, 2010 file photo. Pratchett says watching a man die has reaffirmed his support for the right to assisted suicide, following the broadcast of a BBC television documentary Monday June 13, 2011, in which he watched businessman Peter Smedley undergo assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland. Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's disease, watched as Smedley, who suffered from motor neurion disease, take a lethal dose of barbiturates Anti-euthanasia campaigners criticized the decision to show Smedley's death.(AP Photo/Dominic Lipinski-pa, file) UNITED KINGDOM OUT: NO SALES: NO ARCHIVE:

(AP) -- Writer Terry Pratchett said Tuesday that watching a man being helped to die had reaffirmed his support for assisted suicide, while anti-euthanasia groups criticized the televised death as propaganda.

The suicide, filmed for a BBC documentary, has reopened debate on Britain's decades-old law against helping another person end their life.

Pratchett watched Peter Smedley, a 71-year-old British businessman with , take a lethal dose of barbiturates at a Swiss suicide clinic.

Best-selling fantasy author Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007 and is a vocal supporter of the right to die.

He said he was moved by Smedley's at a clinic run by the Dignitas group, broadcast Monday on BBC television.

"He said to me 'Have a good life.' And then he shook (my PA) Rob's hand and said 'Have a good life, I know I have,'" 63-year-old Pratchett told the broadcaster.

"The incongruity of the situation overtakes you. A man has died, that's a bad thing, but he wanted to die, that's a good thing."

Pratchett said he 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."

Anti-euthanasia campaigners criticized the decision to show Smedley's death. The former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, called the program "propaganda on one side."

"I think an opportunity had been bypassed of having a balanced program - the thousands of people who use the hospice movement and who have a good and peaceful death, there was very little about them," Nazir-Ali told BBC radio.

The BBC denied bias, saying it was "giving people the chance to make their own minds up on the issue."

Assisted suicide is illegal and carries a maximum 14-year sentence in England and Wales, but few people have been prosecuted in recent years for helping friends or relatives die abroad.

After a series of legal test cases, the chief prosecutor last year drew up guidelines to clarify when criminal charges would be more or less likely.

Mitigating factors include a motive of compassion, evidence the victim had made a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives and evidence a suspect tried to talk the victim out of suicide.

In Switzerland, "passive " - giving another person the means to kill themselves - is legal provided the helper isn't a medical doctor and doesn't personally benefit from a patient's death.

shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.