Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die

Friday 15 April 2011, 16:13

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick Head of Interactive, Radio 3

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Terry Pratchett during the making of 'Terry Pratchett : Living with Alzheimers' for BBC Two in February 2009

Death on television has always been a controversial issue - as such, it's not something that we'd ever take the decision to show lightly. Not only did we have to work closely with all of our contributors' families to make sure that the issue was handled as sensitively as possible, but we worked closely with our editorial policy teams to make sure that all aspects of the documentary were in line with BBC Editorial Policy guidelines.

When we knew that we'd be following Terry Pratchett as he looked at the realities of assisted death, for us it was important that we faithfully documented his personal journey. Terry has often spoken of the fact that he may choose a medically assisted death when his condition progresses, so his priority was to look at what this decision would really mean. What would it feel like to make the final decision to die? What would it feel like to visit Dignitas? What would it be like to be present when the moment of death came?

Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die looks at all of these issues in some detail, but in no way does he wave a one-sided flag for assisted death. Terry meets and is moved by a motor neurone disease sufferer who has chosen to stay in the UK and opted for hospice care; he struggles with the decision of a younger man with multiple sclerosis who has chosen to take his own life; he is particularly moved by Peter's (another motor neurone disease sufferer's) long journey to Dignitas, and finds watching the final stage extremely difficult.

What filming the documentary made clear was how complicated the issue was, and how much an important debate about the subject was needed in the UK - with all sides getting the chance to speak. As part of this, on the same night, BBC Two will screen a Newsnight debate that gives all different voices a chance to discuss the issue.

We know that not everyone will feel comfortable watching Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die, but we hope that all would accept that it's important that the BBC tackles the difficult subjects that we're often faced with in life.

Charlotte Moore is Commissioning Editor for documentaries

  • The BBC's Press Release about the programme is on the Press Office web site.
  • The picture shows Terry Pratchet during filming for his programme 'Living with Alzheimer's' for BBC Two in February 2009.

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