Pratchett defends euthanasia film
Author and BBC accused of 'cheerleading' for change to law
AUTHOR Terry Pratchett was forced to defend his documentary on assisted dying yesterday after critics rounded on the BBC for broadcasting the death of a millionaire hotelier with motor neurone disease who chose to end his life in a Swiss clinic.
Anti-euthanasia campaigners accused Pratchett and the BBC of "cheerleading" for a change in legislation, to which they are vehemently opposed.
While religious groups tend to oppose assisted suicide on theological grounds, many disability activists are against changing the law because they fear any legalisation would pressure the elderly and disabled to end their lives prematurely and detract from wider demands for better living provisions.
Clair Lewis, from the Disability Action Network, said: "At the very least there should be some balance in the debate. I support Terry Pratchett's right to kill himself. I just want him to leave the legislation protecting the rest of us from euthanasia, mercy killings, depressive suicides and assisted deaths alone."
Care Not Killing argued that the broadcaster should have done more to represent those who are opposed to assisted dying.
"This latest move by the BBC is a disgraceful use of licence-payers' money and further evidence of a blatant campaigning stance," said the group's director, Dr Peter Saunders.
Pratchett, who has campaigned vigorously for a change to the law since being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, appeared on 'BBC Breakfast' to explain why he felt compelled to make the show, which on Monday night broadcast the final moments of Peter Smedley as he drank a lethal dose of barbiturates at the Dignitas clinic.
When asked why he made the film, Pratchett replied: "Because I was appalled at the current situation. I know that assisted dying is practised in at least three places in Europe and also in the United States. The government here has always turned its back on it and I 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."
The BBC said last night it had received 162 complaints about the broadcast so far, as well as 82 positive comments.