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.