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The BBC’s relentless bias over euthanasia

The BAFTA for Terry Pratchett’s documentary is just the latest example of the Beeb’s stance

By on Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Assisted suicide guidelines

On June 14 last year I blogged about a TV programme I had watched the night before: it was Sir Terry Pratchett on BBC2 on the subject of euthanasia. He had filmed a man choosing to die at Dignitas, the notorious Swiss clinic and this is what I wrote: “Here was the full, compelling, visual creepiness: the soft muzac in the background…the slow, respectful narrative and the very civilised demeanour of the gentleman about to drink poison – a millionaire called Peter Smedley. He described dying by motor neurone disease as a “beastly undignified business”; his wife chimed in, saying (as people do) “I wouldn’t put my dog or my cat through such an undignified ending.” They both exemplified throughout the best behaviour of tactful, brave, secular Britain – as shown (by implication) on the tactful, brave, secular BBC.”

The point of my blog was not to criticise Sir Terry himself. He is entitled to his enthusiastic endorsement of euthanasia. At the same time he is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s – which might have played its part in his outlook on death and dying. My extreme annoyance was with the BBC which, far from being the impartial, patrician organ of national broadcasting that it is meant to be, simply reflects the general, shallow (and Left-wing) secularism of the times we live in. That arch-propagandist, Dr Goebbels, could not have dreamed of a more persuasive film about the merits of euthanasia – and he made some pretty nasty propaganda films in the 1930s about the best “solution” for the mentally handicapped and infirm.

The reason I mention all this is because the Bafta awards, presented for the best television programmes in the last year, have just given “the best single documentary award” to Sir Terry for Choosing to Die, “which showed a gravely ill man ending his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.” The Telegraph report adds that “Sir Terry… paid tribute to Mr Smedley and his family for allowing his story to be told. He thanked the BBC “for allowing us to tackle this rather strange subject for a documentary.” I am sure the BBC was only too delighted to comply. Were there no other BBC documentaries of equal merit made last year? Or is this the BBC showing its bias again?

As I write this, on my desk is a novel, written by a former Telegraph journalist under the pen-name of “Adam Grace”. Entitled “Keep Breathing” it tells the dramatic story of a future British government’s decision to hurry along the process of euthanizing elderly people in the interests of the national economy. Fifteen million citizens over 65, a huge national debt and dodgy politicians – “it’s a chilling scenario waiting to happen”, says the author. The novel is well-constructed and fast-moving, a page-turner with many humorous moments; but at its heart is a wake-up call: if we don’t protect our senior citizens they will end up at the mercy of “the utilitarian, money-obsessed minds of the politicians.”

Lord Falconer (funded by Sir Terry Pratchett as it happens) has already tried to stimulate interest in a Bill for assisted suicide. So far he has failed – but he will be back. Adam Grace’s book is available in paperback from Amazon at £8.99 plus postage, or as an e-book on Kindle for £2.90.

  • paulsays

    When I say ‘no one’ I assume that people understand it in the sense of ‘not many people’.

    Of course you have crackpots with crazy ideas. Some people still deny the holocaust, some people still think the earth is flat, and some people want euthanasia to be pressured onto those with degenerative conditions.

    Fringe ideas are not helpful to the debate, and to include them , as if they are being seriously considered, by either the public, or politicians – is deceptive.

  • theroadmaster

    Yeah, the final release from suffering seems on the surface reasonable when one listens to the specious arguments made on it’s behalf.  People are too easily swayed by the seeming innocuousness of it all, e.g a needle in the arm or swallowing a pill and it’s all over.  This is the darkness of despair which is in complete contrast to the holistic care provided by the Hospice movement, which looks after mind, body and spirit in an expert way.
    We all know the other inherent dangers in allowing euthanasia or assisted suicide to take hold of society e.g pressure from relatives to persuade an elderly relative to take his/her own life for their own selfish, materialist reasons or the distinct possibility of someone stating that they want to end it all when they were not thinking straight and then later someone helps them to their premature death, when they are not in a state to rescind their earlier order.

  • Burt

    Thank you Nezbyth and Lazarus for bringing the topic back to a higher level..reading Oconnord & teigitur I was beginning to change my mind..thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad is a couple of us could be gently euthanised away in a painless way

  • Lazarus

    Please go and look at the biographical entry for  Baroness Warnock DBE FBA,_Baroness_Warnock  and then come back and tell me (with a straight face) that this pillar of the establishment is on the fringe.

    (Relevant to the present discussion -and something I’d missed in her cursus honorum before now was that ‘Warnock was a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority from 1972 to 1983 and, in 1980, was considered for the post of Director General of the BBC’. Seems like a match made in heaven!)

  • teigitur

    Well as they say there is no fool like an old fool.

  • paulsays

    - double post

  • paulsays

    The idea of euthanasia being pressured on those with degenerative conditions is not being presented as an idea by those who want assisted suicide. Mary Warnock has not been part of the BBC’s coverage of the issue.

    The kind of law wanted by those like Terry Pratchett is one akin to the State of Oregon’s ‘Death with Dignity’ act of 1994.

    I would urge you to read the Wikipedia page about it

    The only reason why the BBC may appear so biased, is because the moderate and reasonable ideas like that in Oregon’s law are very hard to argue against. I urge you to read the Wikipedia page on the act, and all the many safe-guards in place, and see for yourself just how sensible it is. 

    Since its inception in 1994 only 0.01% of the population has chosen assisted suicide, and since 1994 there have been no calls for any change in the law, or for its provisions to be pushed further.

    Naturally it is very easy for Francis Phillips to argue against Nazi war crininals – so she chooses the easy fight, whereas to argue against a law such as Oregons’s requires thought and time. I find it near impossible to pick any holes in it – give it a try yourself!

  • Lazarus

    ‘The idea of euthanasia being pressured on those with degenerative conditions is not being presented as an idea by those who want assisted suicide. ‘
    1) This is the fallacy known as the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy. I’ve pointed out that at least one major establishment figure (plus hordes of others I’ve debated in comboxes before now) who want precisely this. For some reason, you have excluded these inconvenient figures from ‘those who want assisted suicide’ presumably on the ground that these are not ‘true supporters’ of assisted suicide.

    2) Putting that aside, mine is a claim about the consequences of introducing assisted suicide, not about their intentions. As indicated in the ‘Adam Grace’ novel, there is a highly plausible economic driver for the extension beyond the minimal levels you are advocating and very little reason to think that this will not occur. 

  • JByrne24

    Yes there are dangers that euthanasia may be abused – as car use, use of medicines of all types etc may be abused, but safeguards can be constructed – although they will, as human constructs, not be perfect.

    I was mainly pointing out the fact that euthanasia is effectively wide-spread throughout the NHS – in a partially disguised and most unsatisfactory form.

     The Hospice movement is excellent, but available to relatively few people.

  • JByrne24

    This is not so. Euthanasia was effectively fairly widely used through the eugenics movement in the US and Europe in the 1930s. 

  • theroadmaster

    We are standing at the edge of a precipice, when society feels that it is ready to legislate in favor of euthanasia, as an option for people to resort to, in the event of serious illness or psychological distress.  We fall over the precipice when it is made legal.  We can talk about “safeguards”, but I feel, even with those in place, we will see situations arise, time and time again, when severe abuses will occur, as in the pressure put on elderly relatives to end it all by grasping family members. Notwithstanding that reality, the whole concept of euthanasia should be repugnant to all right thinking people, and recognized for the nihilistic, dark solution of despair that it is.

  • liulan991

  • Alexander of Macedonia

    Terry Pratchett fighting for the right to end own life = GOEBBELS FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO INDISCRIMINATELY KILL DISABLED PEOPLE!