Man's final moments to be broadcast
Published 26/04/2011 | 12:36
The moment a dying man makes his "final breath" is being broadcast in a new BBC science series.
The second episode of Inside The Human Body, to be aired on BBC1 next month, sees 84-year-old Gerald die at home surrounded by his family.
Presenter Michael Mosley told the Radio Times that some people would criticise the broadcast, but he said it was important not to "shy away from talking about death and, when it's warranted, showing it".
He said: "I know that there are those who feel that showing a human death on television is wrong, whatever the circumstances.
"Although I respect this point of view I think there is a case to be made for filming a peaceful, natural death - a view shared by many who work closely with the dying."
The series covers the moment of conception, a baby's first breath, the body's development to adulthood, and the way the body defends itself.
Gerald's death is filmed in the second episode, which looks at the body's survival mechanisms.
It features a man who can hold his breath for nine minutes, another who can swim in water so cold it would normally kill, and a woman who has lived for 10 years on a diet of crisps.
The final part of the episode, broadcast at 9pm on May 12, examines what happens when the body gives up its fight for survival.
Mosley told the magazine: "We met many wonderful people while making the series, but Gerald was special. We were privileged to share, with his family, his last few weeks and the moment of his final breath."
Programme-makers approached a number of hospices and cancer charities to find someone who was willing to be filmed in their dying moments.
A hospice in Pembury, Kent, put programme-makes in touch with Gerald because they said they felt it was "important that life-threatening illness and death is discussed and understood more in our society".
When Gerald, who was suffering from advanced cancer, was approached about being filmed in November last year, he said he hoped it would help others.
"I don't want to die, but pretty evidently unless some miracle happens, I ain't gonna be here very long... I'm not frightened.
"I don't believe that it'll be just like cutting off some tape with some scissors, though it might be. But either way I have blind trust that I shall not disappear completely," he said.
He died on January 1 this year, at home and surrounded by family, after vowing to see in 2011.
Mosley said: "The death of a loved one is a hugely significant moment in all our lives, but not something to be feared.
"I watched my own father die. Just before the end he decided to start singing. He sang for several minutes and then he stopped and he was gone. I'm so glad I was there and the time I spent with him before his death are among the many memories that I treasure."