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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.

  • Oconnord

    “The BBC’s relentless bias over euthanasia”As opposed by the CH’s unbiased view.It’s not as though a blogger would compare the BBC with the Nazi party……..Ooops…

  • Lazarus

    The Catholic Herald does what it says on its tin. When the BBC renames itself ‘The Nutty Secularist Broadcasting Corporation’ we’ll no longer have a reason to complain. (Except for having to pay for its propaganda, of course.)

  • Oconnord

    Fair point about the CH. But that doesn’t excuse “doing a Godwin” and comparing the BBC to the Nazis. That’s just bad journalism.

  • Burt

    The first country that legalised euthanasia was Nazi Germany, so the comparison of the BBC to the Nazi propaganda machine is quite pertinent.

  • teigitur

    BBC s relentless bias> Full stop, when it come to faith and morals.

  • Oconnord

    Surely you can see the differences between the BBC and the Nazi party that make the comparison inept. I could just as easily describe the Nazi policy of euthanasia as complying with “Natural Law”.  But would I be correct in doing so?

  • teigitur

    We do not have to pay for the CH Damo. We do for the BBC. The clue, by the way, is in the name CATHOLIC herald.So its going to give ( well most of the time) the…………..Catholic viewpoint. Shocking I know, but there you are.

  • Anders

    So you’re saying the BBC ‘isn’t’ biased over its coverage of euthanasia? Where are all the highly publicized and celebrity authored documentaries opposing it then? 

  • Oconnord

    I knew you’d grill me over that comment :)…. I am rightly chastised!!!

    BTW don’t get me started on the license fee, talk about missionary zeal by the license people. I practically had to post my TV license in my window when I first moved to the UK. They were calling to to house 2-3 times a week for a month.

  • teigitur

    It kills me to pay it, but I really have no choice! The BBC almost never represents me, or my viewpoint, which most of the time is probably a minority one, I admit. But there is rarely any counter-argument allowed.
     They probably knew you were Irish and would duck out of paying for it if you could…

  • Oconnord

    No, I was saying pot Vs kettle. Which I admit I regret as being blatantly obvious. As to celebrities opposed to assisted deaths… well I don’t know of any. But any viewing of the BBC’s “religion lite” shows on Sunday mornings have lots of anti-euthanasia viewpoints. So I think the claims of bias are exaggerated. 

    Ultimately views of bias are usually matters of opinion.   

  • teigitur

    I cannot believe you watch that c**p on the BBC on a Sunday morning.  Its mindless crud.  I am shocked at you Damo. No Mass on RTE anymore? Even their studio formica-Mass  is better than the BBC s offering.

  • Oconnord

    When I had my first place in Dublin, they called to my door looking for my licence… I promptly gave away my TV and did without for about five years. In the end I only bought one again to use with a playstation. 

    I just bought a swanky new TV last weekend.. and I still haven’t got round to connecting it to my satellite dish. Works a treat with my laptop and xbox though :)

  • Oconnord

    Thanks for making me laugh!! It is like car crash TV. I feel guilty when I see it but I just can’t look away!

    And thanks for reminding me how hokey RTE is. They still has mass, followed by The Farmer’s Journal. Sometimes I think Father Ted was a documentary.

  • Anon

    living in a major English city, quite similar to the dystopian Logan’s Run.

  • Anon Amos

    The BBC has been airing Songs of Praise for decades, no?  Yet when they air a one-off secular documentary, they are then accused of displaying a secular-bias.  This is quite a narrow-minded article.

  • teigitur

    I thought it was!

  • teigitur

    Songs of Praise? Oh please!!

  • teigitur

    I thought there was a recession on. Clearly not .Unless of course the TV fell from the back of a lorry in moore street.

  • Jae

    What do we expect from the BBC is just a media for the “if it feels good, it must be right” ideology, they don’t recognize any moral authority besides themselves…..relativism at its finest.

  • theroadmaster

    The latest programme made by the BBC to “normalize”  the dark and insidious practice of euthanasia, demonstrates how truth continues to march on it’s head, regarding the genuine nature of human happiness and fulfillment, among the social liberal elites and media opinion-formers.  This truism was also evident in the very recent BBC 5 live 2 hour broadcast, from the interior of an abortion clinic, which sought to “demystify” the whole process of destroying nascent life in the womb.  The dissembling nature of the propaganda  behind these programmes, may not be apparent to the undiscerning and uninitiated among us.  But those who can detect the underlying ideology, will resist any emotional or so called “reasonable” arguments that certain lobbies utilize to sustain their anti-life ideology.

  • Jae

    What Burt is saying is there exist a similarity between the ideology of BBC and those of the Nazis, it started by stripping the person of a God given human dignity when Nazis first classify the Jews as sub-humans same as the world today when they classify the baby in the womb as a clump of cells, fetus, parasite etc. when is the last time you ask a pregnant woman, “how is your fetus?”

  • Oconnord

    But now we have something in common with “the feckin Greek’s”. I get to vote tomorrow about something that will affect you… and your children…. and your grandchildren.

  • Lazarus

    You’d struggle to explain why Nazi policy complied with the tradition of natural law. On the other hand, Francis Phillips’ point was a narrow and true one: Goebbels made propaganda films building up support for euthanasia; so are the BBC.

    On the general move of comparing various modern movements with Nazism, you shouldn’t dismiss this as mere rhetoric. The mystery and horror of Nazism is how one of the best educated and most technologically advanced nations in Europe turned itself into a barbaric killing machine so quickly. That really ought to keep worrying us. And the identification of an increased readiness among our governing elite to reduce human value to usefulness and to dispose of the weak and useless by bureaucratic killing is the identification of a key step along the path to that possible future. 

    I’d probably risk going even further: without God and the sense of the sacredness of each individual human life made in his image, modernity inevitably declines into the casual slaughter of Stalinism and Nazism.

    (And having lit that particular blue touch paper, I shall withdraw to a safe place to allow the inevitable Dawkinsian splutterings!)

  • Oconnord

    That read really badly.

    I have to vote… and I’m uncomfortable that I’m in one of the countries who might ratify a treaty that other countries may be forced to obey. 

  • Oconnord

    Wow you put a lot of effort into that…. I’m almost tempted to read it!

  • JByrne24

    Ms Phillips’ remarks about Dr Joseph Goebbels and “shallow (and Left-wing) secularism” are the usual grist to the mill from this lady. However, the matter is really a very serious one.

    The debate over euthanasia has been won by the forces of sympathetic reason in several places, and in jurisdictions where it is still illegal it is widely practised – because human pity and sympathy is stronger than legalities. 

    Where it remains, at present, obstructed by erroneous beliefs about the sanctity of life, it is a classic example of inhumanity. It’s strange that those who invoke this argument are not always very much opposed to weapons manufacture, “just” wars and capital punishment. These things are designed to harm the living – while euthanasia is designed to help the living.

  • Oconnord

    Again you make me smile!!! You presume so much. I never said I lived here when the recession hit.

    And you seem to have been watching too many episodes of “Fools and Horses”. I only buy my “Doc Martins” on Moore St. 

  • Nesbyth

    The problem is that the Government (when making laws)  and the Media (when promoting them) never call a spade a spade; they dress up murderous acts with sentimental ideas and soppy language.

    They are happy to tell us that “Smoking Kills”, but never, in such a direct way, that Abortion Kills or that Euthanasia Kills

  • Oconnord

    Hah… didn’t bother again

  • teigitur

    I presume very little. I surmise what I can. But you only bought the TV last week. Is the recession over in Ireland?
     What way are you voting tomorrow?? Nosey eh?

  • teigitur

    I presume people there will be scared, and vote for more of the same?  Not a good idea, but one can hardly blame them.

  • teigitur

    Perhaps you can return to it on Sunday morning, instead of watching the BBC. It would be so much better for you to read it, than start your Sunday with glib superficialities.

  • teigitur

    Your offerings are usually twisted, but this really “beats the band”. More to be pitied than laughed at.

  • Nat_ons

    Sadly, orthodox Catholic teaching – and truth itself  - is still on a hiding to nothing in terms of the media’s pop culture. This is not something new, in fact it has been presented as ‘new’, controversial, ‘pushing-the-limits’ of liberal free thought (sic) for a century and more. Chesterton’s Eugenics sets out the premiss of its basic philosophy: the egoism of the superman’s will for having his own choice .. already the prevailing view of the pre-1914 CE advanced culture set – death/ oblivion/ nothing forms the preferred option over any prospective weariness in life. 

  • Oconnord

    But it’s easy like…… Sunday mornings…….

    I’ll be glib, and you p1ss me off when you interfere. 

  • Sophistros

    This piece is fatally muddled.  You ask whether this award demonstrates the BBC “showing its bias again”.  The BBC didn’t award itself the BAFTA.  You can blame them for making the programme, but not for the fact that several hundred other people have voted it the best television documentary of last year.  And the comparison with Goebbels is puerile.  Nazis were advocating killing other people.  Pro-euthanasia campaigners (and I’m not one of them) are campaigning for the right to facilitate their own death.  The moral gulf between agents of the state killing others deemed to be inferior, and individuals choosing their own death over appalling suffering, is colossal. 

    As far as the BBC is concerned, it certainly has not ‘balanced’ this particular debate.  They should have given equal airtime to a proponent of the other point of view.  But the idea that the BBC is nothing but an organ of secularism is laughable – I listened to two (different) live services today alone.  And if it’s abolished, which broadcaster in this country will be dedicating an hour of its schedules to an Ascension Day service…?

  • teigitur

    Seems its also EASY, just like a Sunday morning, to pee you off.

  • Oconnord

    You get to ask, I won’t answer. That’s just the way things are. That’s just the ways things are on a referendum. 

    But the truth is we hate to vote for such an undecided treaty. Most people want a third option, a Not Yet.

  • JByrne24

    Now that you have that piece of unpleasantness out of your brain, perhaps you may wish to make an intelligent observation?

  • paulsays

    How about making a case against euthanasia without resorting to Nazi references. Sorry, but it looks truly desperate.

    There’s a genuine argument to be made against euthanasia without ridiculously muddying the water without Nazi name dropping and mentioning the stuff like euthanasia for the ‘mentally handicapped and infirm’

    No-one is calling for this! So why be so dishonest as to give the impression that it is being called for? It is simply not on the table at all. To give the impression calls into question your journalistic integrity.

    Stick to the constraints of the reality of the argument today – and make your case.

  • teigitur

    There is so much error and twisted logic in your posting, one could make it one s lifetimes work making observations about it. I have no such amounts of free time.

  • teigitur

    It won t make one iota of difference anyway. Brussels will do as it pleases as it has all along. Deeply undemocratic.

  • Nesbyth

    “Euthanasia is designed to help the living” says JByrne24

    What do you mean by this? This is a curiously unfinished statement.

    That it helps the “living” to die?

    OR that it helps the “living” to do away with those who are burdensome, need looking after, cost money and take up bed space …so that they can get on with their lives unencumbered?

    There’s a lot of waffle about this subject which is what I think Francis Phillips is trying to clear away.

  • Jae

    JByrne, Helping the living? By killing it? How about abortion helping the not-so-ready parent, kill the baby too? How about helping the elderly or sick by stem cell, killing the definite human embryos too?

    Why don’t you read the “End of Life” Teaching of the Catholic Church and see for yourself the wisdom about the sacredness of life, treating the sick and terminally ill and exemptions before you go in here proclaiming your fallible opinions, which in reality is just an evil thing disguised as good.

  • Lazarus

    ‘No one is calling for this.’

    How about this?

    ‘But in her latest interview, given to the Church of Scotland’s magazine Life and Work, Lady Warnock goes further by claiming that dementia sufferers should consider ending their lives through euthanasia because of the strain they put on their families and public services.Recent figures show there are 700,000 people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s in Britain. By 2026 experts predict there will be one million dementia sufferers in the country, costing the NHS an estimated £35billion a year.Lady Warnock said: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.’

    Once you establish the principle that some lives are not worth living, Warnock is quite right to conclude that some have a duty to die -and a cash strapped state will inevitably move in to remind them of that duty. That is the reality of the argument and ‘Adam Grace’ (with Francis Phillips) seems to hit the nail on the head.

  • Lazarus

    Not even the merest peek? Oh, dear! I’m crestfallen…

  • JByrne24

    The living are helped in the sense that those who are suffering unrelievable pain and agony may be released to death.

    Others of the living are the friends and relatives of the seriously ill person, who can suffer greatly as they watch the agony of their loved one. Euthanasia can be the right and merciful course of action in such situations. 

    Of course SLOW, and always painful, euthanasia (the “Liverpool Pathway” for example) is very widely practised in the UK. This also causes death (that is the intention) but it also causes much pain and distress to everyone in the process.

    See “Sentenced to Death on The NHS” in the Telegraph:


  • JByrne24

    I see. I had always thought that there must be a reason why you never make intelligent observations.
    Perhaps if you retire one day you might have time to make one.
    I’m in my 70s, so can quite easily do so.

  • Nesbyth

    As a matter of fact, Francis Phillips is correct about the Nazis and their “softly-softly” introduction of Euthanasia.

    Agreed, we are not openly asking for euthanasia for the mentally handicapped as a group, but we are suggesting it for those who might  be “brain dead”, have alzheimers or for those who are  infirm/elderly.
    The fact is, as “Burt” has pointed out, the Nazis did institute euthanasia – early in the 1930′s – when Hitler was seen as a Good Thing , albeit with uncouth rhetoric. Before the war began they starved children, the handicapped and elderly to death (70,000 of them).
    Today, we starve old people to death in our hospitals and care homes, even though we don’t do it systematically.
    A book called “Death and Deliverence” by Michael Burleigh describes the comprehensive Nazi euthanasia programme which was quite different to the later concentration camps. It operated in Berlin from an address called Tiergarten 4 and was given the coded reference “T-4″.
    The Pope’s own cousin, who had Down’s, was taken from his home in the early 1930′s and then had a “sudden fatal heart attack”. But everyone knew this was a lie and he’d been murdered /euthanased.
    Francis Phillips is suggesting perhaps, that the BBC programme was deliberately designed to soften us up, just as Goebbels’ films in the early 1930s were designed to soften up the German public.