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Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die

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Charlie Russell Charlie Russell | 09:56 UK time, Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Two years ago I directed Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer's for BBC Two, following the author on and off for a year to document his early days with Alzheimer's.

By the end of it Terry and I knew each other well and I had won his trust.

We seem to know instinctively what the other is thinking at any one time. He needs the minimum of guidance, so my role in filming Choosing To Die was often just to capture what he was experiencing.

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

He is brilliant at wrestling with the moral conundrums that the subject throws up - not least because he is genuinely considering some form of assisted death for himself.

But I was still surprised at how emotional he found the experience of making this film.

I had never seen him cry until we went to Switzerland.

We knew that if we wanted this film to be entirely honest about assisted dying then it was important to show the whole process, including the death itself.

When Peter, the man who dies on-camera in the film, agreed to let us record his end, the challenge was to film it respectfully, sensitively, but most of all truthfully.

We don't romanticise it - there could be no fade to black before he drank the poison.

It is up to you to decide whether his last moments are deeply moving, distressing, or rather ordinary.

I suspect it is a little bit of each of these and, depending on your own family's experiences, so much more.

Helping someone have an assisted death is still technically illegal, so we were very careful to make sure that we were there purely as impartial observers.

We didn't break the law, though it was impossible not to feel a deep connection with Peter and his wife - and for Andrew and his mother, who also journeyed to Dignitas.

Everyone involved in the production, no matter what their views on legalising assisted dying, has been profoundly affected by the experience.

I hope that you are too.

Charlie Russell is the director and producer of Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die.

Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die is available in iPlayer until Monday, 20 June.

Choosing To Die: A Newsnight debate with Terry Pratchett and Jeremy Paxman is also available in iPlayer until Monday, 20 June.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Thank you Charlie Russell and thank you Sir Terry. I find it hard to keep writing about my own experience of Dignitas so if I may, I'll just post a copy of the letter which I sent to them after seeing your Television programme.

    Dear People At Dignitas,

    I have just watched a programme on BBC television, made by Sir Terry Pratchett and I want to say "Thank you" again to all of you.

    Ivan came to you for help and you did not refuse him. At that time, back in December 2008 you did not have the little blue house - but for Ivan that didn't matter. I saw Erika and I remember her kindness (she gave me a hug afterwards). His death was more difficult than usual because he needed to be given the drug intravenously and all did not go to plan.

    But Ivan got what he wanted, with your help and I know that he would want me to thank you and to remind you of the kindness and the good work which you do.

    The past two years have been very very hard for me and of course I still miss him terribly. But seeing another man and his wife go through with this has helped me. In a strange way I found it a comfort - when I didn't expect that.

    One day, maybe, we will be able to make a choice about the time of our death in our own country. This would be my hope. Until then I will ALWAYS be grateful to you and to the people of Switzerland for helping. I understand that it is still controversial in your country too - but the difference is that there are enough people there who think that this is a reasonable choice to be able to make.

    Thank you again,

    Yours faithfully and with gratitude,

    Keith C Balding.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think the BBC have done well to bring this issue to the fore. In amongst the roots of society where I spend most of my time, there is a common desire for something to be done about giving people more control over what happens to them as they approach death. The more discussion and enlightenment on how things are done now compared to how they might be done better in the future, can only help.

  • Comment number 3.

    This was an excellent programme and it is good that at last someone is supporting those of us who want the Human Rights Act to be used to support our right to die in the comfort of our own country, if not in the comfort of our own homes, when we choose to.
    I hope that Politicians and others who think that they should determine our right to die and not allow us the same freedom, will think again.
    I hope that this programme will lead to a huge campaign.
    Well done Terry Pratchett, the whole team and the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    People have a choice to live or die, and i work in a nursing home at the end of life I dont think that the elderly people Ive looked after wants to live like a cabbage and loose their dignity that someone has to clean them, dressed them, bathed them. But they have no choice, Vulnerble peolple with have a long term illness should not suffer. If Im in the situation like the people in documentary I would end my life in switzerland and I am sure my family that i will left behind will understand the situation.

  • Comment number 5.

    It is very interesting documentary of Sir Terry, its very sad. I think that we should respect the choice of those people that wanted to end their life because of the long term illness, If Im in the situation like one of those people in documentary I would not want to live in a nursing home, loosing my dignity and suffer.
    Thats all I can comment
    Thank you very much for this documentary.

  • Comment number 6.

    what an amazing programme,although a little difficult to watch.
    mrs smedley was so supportive of her husband.her family must be very proud of her,it must take an incredibly strong ,loving partner to help their loved ones

    like this.i agree that if a person chooses to end THEIR life like this,it should be allowed,but in their own homes

  • Comment number 7.

    Say what you like this is propaganda in favour of non voluntary euthanasia, where a little pressure will encourage the sick and under treated to excerise the right to be deprived of proper attention and treatment. Go for it BBC, your record on truth is challengeable in many areas. Basically, your objective, despite the comments produced here, is to cut costs. What did Hitler say about getting rid of useless eaters? There are very serious ethical issues bound up with giving and witholding treatment, accelerating or delaying the dying process. But those of us attending conferences, producing research papers, and engaging with hospital staff, will not fit in with the BBC's preconceived agenda. Bah, the times I have been interviewed by BBC researchers only to be rejected once I tried to show how complicated these issues are.

  • Comment number 8.

    I find it intensely irritating that people demand a 'balanced' programme, and refer to this marvellous, sensitive, moving documentary as "propaganda". Why should it be balanced? What is to stop another producer making a programme entirely dedicated to the other side of the argument? It is only by studying a moral issue to its limits - on both sides - that we can ever hope to reach a fair, just and ethical outcome which satifies a majority.

  • Comment number 9.

    what an amazing programme,although a little difficult to watch.mrs smedley was so brave and so supportive for her wonderful husband, it must of been very difficult and painful for her.i hope her family are proud of her.it is a very brave decision for someone to have to make and it is probably made a lot worse because they have to leave their own homes to do this.i agree with us being able to choose when we need to end our suffering and pain,but we should be able to do so in our own homes with our family around us.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    I watched the documentary and went through so many emotions, it was hard hitting but was made with sensitivity. There are arguments for and against and everybody has an opinion, but i think unless you are directly affected by the subject we cannot judge or say it is right or wrong, because we are only looking from outside. As for comments saying it was pro suicide, well it was called Choosing to Die! not about living with an illness and how people cope and make the most of thier remaining days. Maybe the BBC should air a programme on that subject then we will see both sides of the coin.

  • Comment number 12.

    My comment is a response to ProfPheonix. I agree that there are ethical issues in giving and witholding treatment – of course there are – but why can't we include assisted suicide as an option? This programme showed very clearly that the users of Dignitas were acting independently and with sound mind. Dignitas has helped just over 1,000 people in twelve years. That is an average of 83 people per year. I don't know how many people they turn away, but to me, 83 is a small number for an organisation that is available to hundreds of thousands of people, and a reflection of the strict, ethical guidelines Dignitas must use in approving its clients. I wouldn't doubt that the issues are complicated, but I would be interested to know how many people have been forced to do the job themselves, leaving family members traumatised and vulnerable. Why not offer a safe, sanctioned alternative for people who choose to determine their own death? It's a difficult question, and introducing Hitler into the conversation is erroneous, completely unhelpful, and does damage to your credibility.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you BBC and Sir Terry for a moving and thought provoking programme. #

    I have to say that I find it hard that as humans we are such control freaks! So much so that we even feel the need to be able to control our own deaths. And how very sad that we are programmed to feel useless, a burden or ‘un dignified’ if we require care – I am sure children do not feel all these things.

    I know from personal experience that we can all achieve a peaceful, dignified and pain free death here in this country through the wonderful work of our hospices.

    Surely what we need to do is change peoples thinking. It is alright to be cared for and dignity comes in many forms! Quality of life is about living the life you have left to the full. Enjoy life, it is precious and do not be afraid of death, with the love, care and support of family, friends and the hospice movement it does not have to be something feared and controlled.

  • Comment number 14.

    I would like to thank the BBC and Terry Pratchett for making such a caring and sensitive documentary last night. My sister took her own life many years ago by using barbiturates and I have always worried that she suffered at the last. Having seen how peacefully and with such dignity Peter passed away, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Like many people who have lost someone close because of suicide, we all wish that they had never made that decision. However when circumstances are such that a persons standard of life is no longer worth living, I truly believe that they should have the option to end it in peace and surrounded by those they love.

    Making someone continue in sufference is something we would not even put our pets through, and if people can be prosecuted for leaving an animal to suffer, how can we be so hypocritical as to expect a human to have to go through the same suffering?

    I believe that the decision should only ever be made by the person who wishes to die, but I also believe that they should be able to make a living will that gives permission when they are no longer able to communicate themselves that they should be allowed to go in peace. That too would prevent people who still have much to live for (eg Andrew) ending their own lives too early, for fear that if they do not die now, they will not be able to have the choice later.

    Thank you once again to the BBC for making the program, I know that many people have complained, but I hope that you receive as many praises too for I really think this program deserved them.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    I watched your programme out of curiosity; but I was deeply moved by the courage of the people involved, who decided that their lives must be over.
    However, it somehow left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, due to the fact that it seemed all so easy and clinical...where are the boundaries. If a patient is critically ill and bound to die I totally agree with speeding up the process, so that the suffering is over. Here in Holland that is common practice, but apart from hospices for the terminally ill, I do not think we would ever have these kind of "death houses". It all seems very macabre and very sad that people cannot die peacefully in their own homes.

  • Comment number 17.

    I can't help but feel that this was the most balanced documentary I have seen on any subjecty, let alone this highly emotive one. I'm not sure I am entirenly convinced about teh rights and wongs of it, even after this, because it showed aome powerful reasons that argued either way, myself. One thing I did, however, make up my mind to some time ago, and that decisions was only re-inforced by working with disabled people, some of whome didn't even have sufficient mobility in any limb, or sufficient control of their limbs to operated a power wheel chair,and yet they all enjoyed their lives and would never end them. This led to my decision that I will never hasten my own death, however should I die I have no wish to be revived. However that is purely myy own take on this and anyone elses is between them and their conscience, or between them and God.

  • Comment number 18.

    I missed the programme last night and have just watched it on I Player - still wiping away the tears now!

    Well done BBC and particularly well done Terry Pratchett. It's a very difficult subject to approach but one which needs to be addressed. This programme was done with taste and dignity for all involved.

    It was good to see how Dignitas handle each person, how they are assessed to make sure that dying is the right option for them and making sure on several occasions that they are sure they want to die.

    I have known one person go through the horrors of being diagnosed with a terminal illness and witnessed the torture he went through in coming to terms with it. He had Motor Neurone Disease, diagnosed at 58 after a very full and very active life. He knew he couldn't cope with being totally dependant on others and knew he wouldn't cope with still having a totally active mind and totally inactive body. Very little was known about Dignitas at that time but I'm sure if that option had been available it would have been something he would have considered. Instead he took himself off one night, with a bottle of pills, a bottle of brandy and was found a month later in the local river, having gone in on the night he disappearead. It would have been so much kinder for him to have gone to somewhere like Dignitas.

    The programme was in no way propaganda as someone has suggested - just a realistic view of the options that are available to those who find themselves faced with those circumstances. Only the person suffering a disease like MND, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers etc can know what they can and can't cope with. It should be their choice and their choice alone about how they choose to die. Dignitas just provides an option for them for when they feel that they can't go on any longer.

    Those who believe that organisations like Dignitas clearly have no compassion and no understanding for the situations that Terry Pratchett and the 2 men on the programme are/were in.

    Ultimately if someone is going to die anyway at the hands of a particularly nasty disease for which there is no cure....it's their life and they should have the right to choose how they're going to die. I hope that those who are sat in judgement against Dignitas etc never have to go through those circumstances as they would never cope!

  • Comment number 19.

    What an amazingly sensitively put together programme. My respect to all of those involved.
    Mrs. Smedley as Sir Terry said "you make us proud to be British"
    So touched by this sensitive issue, lets hope that the government consider the relevant changes.
    Sincere thanks to the Smedley family for allow us all to be a part of such a powerful, moving event.

  • Comment number 20.

    Loaded with heart wrenchingly palpable scenes. Perhaps it is strange but the programme offered a sense of Macabre fulfilment because it really encourages you to assess and question what you think is right. Your synapses are alight with the tragic dichotomy of either outcome for Andrew or Peter you have met not even an hour ago. You are left, like Terry, with a feeling of loss and uncertainty. Terry’s rudimentary question of ‘who owns your life’ echoing around your very being. Crushingly sad and without resolution for our narrator but fantastic programming from the BBC. Informative, all encompassing, and intelligent.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree with others here that this film was as balanced as it needed to be. More so, in fact. Let other programme makers present the other sides of the debate.

    When I first heard about the film some months ago, I felt it was something I would not want to see. However, as a humanist and a follower of the debate for assisted dying in the UK, and with the enormous response to the screening, I decided to watch it today on the iPlayer.

    My overwhelming thought is how beautifully humane the film is. Sir Terry is a deep thinker and he was given time and space to convey his thoughts on this complex subject. I found myself in tears at several points during the film.

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 22.

    Choosing to Live - 3 minutes of brilliance

    Charlie, Terry - I applaud you for the three minutes of brilliance in the documentary Choosing to Die - it was around 16.14 minutes into the programme and lasted until around 19.31. You highlighted the common experience of most people who acquire illness or disability. Thank you for featuring Mick the cab driver. He reminded us of how most of us think, feel and act as we acquire a debilitating health condition that may, or may not, result in dealth. He reminded us of the indomitable spirit of the majority of people. He reminded us that life is not tidy, often painful and unforgiving, cannot be predicted and often not what we choose. And yet he spoke the words of many millions of disabled, elderly and terminally ill people - "lets have another roll of the dice." It takes a cabbie to strike the most realistic and unselfish chord.

    Charlie, it would be so wonderful if you could use your evident skill to document the common lived experience as we approach end of life thoughts. Let me know if I can help you redress the BBC imbalance on this subject.

    Kate Nash OBE

  • Comment number 23.

    The documentary Choosing To Die was disturbing and emotional. Thank you to those who took part and allowed us a glimpse into the last moments of their lives. We need this service in Britain. May be it would be for the minority but every person deserves their right to chose what happens to them in death as well as in life. If only majorities were catered for we women would have no provision for us, the diabled would have no provision for their needs, and so it goes on. The argument that only a minority want this is not a valid one. Allow each of us the dignity in death we seek.

  • Comment number 24.

    I found this documentary very sad because people had to go to switzerland to die and were not able to die in a place of their own choosing. Also, due to the cost of dieing in this waymeans that alot ofpeople who want to have an assisted suicide cannot afford it. Also, why did the documentary or anything else regarding assisted suicide that is on television only looked at people who had physical illnesses. What about those with mental health. I suffer from manic depression and I don't want to live but I do because I do not want to hurt my daughter. Even though I have never told herthat I am suicidal she said at christmas to me 'Mum I know you do not want to be on this planet but you gave birth to me and I need you.' Each dayI get up and say to myself am I going to live today or is this the day I am going to die. I do know that when the timecomes I will take my own life. I know people think this is a sefish act but what right have they or anyone else to say that MYlife is worth living. They can only say that about their own lives. The subject of voluntary death is so taboo and we need to change things. Lots of people think that the law around assisted suicide should be changed. I say,why is there such a law in the first place. Who is it that gives someone the right to create a law that says whether someone can assist someone to die or not. As far as I am concerned there should not even be any such law and no one had the right to create that law. I did not ask to be born so why do I not have a right to have an assisted suicide? Even in Switzerland they would not help me to die because they would think I was being irrational but no one talks about the right to have an assisted suicide for people who are mentally ill. I believethat the reason thatassistedsuicide and suicide are such taboo subjectsisbecause those who don'tagree are afraid of there own death.

  • Comment number 25.

    I watched my sister in law die 11 weeks after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, she was fit and always on the go. towards the end it was just dreadful, not only for her but for those of us that love her. I made a comment to my doctor that if I allowed my little dog to suffer like that, they would take me to court. I believe that we should have the right to sign a form to say if a terminal illness occurs then I want putting to sleep, it is inhuman to allow people to suffer, the law has to change, not everyone, including me, could afford £10 grand to go abroad to have some dignity. please sort this out.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts about last night’s programme. The first goal of BBC documentaries is always to look at subjects that matter and get people talking – looking at the considerable audience response to this film its clear that we achieved that here.

    I know there have been lots of questions about the film that people are keen to have answered. One of the things that keeps coming up online is the question of whether this programme shows a BBC bias towards assisted death. I just wanted to reassure everyone that we are completely impartial on the issue of assisted death and that this is a programme that is absolutely in line with all BBC guidelines. I’ve talked about it a little bit more on the About The BBC blog.

    Let us know your thoughts if you haven’t already, or I’ll try to pop back to the TV blog later to keep up to date on what everyone thinks.

    Charlotte Moore, Commissioning Editor for BBC Documentaries.

  • Comment number 27.

    This film was sensitive and moving. I speak from the point of view of one who lost a son to suicide and my wife to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. This is a fairly rare neurological disorder which is incurable. It takes about seven years to kill someone. I also write as a person who believes there is a spiritual side to life. I write only to offer my experience and not to judge one way or the other.

    Let us be clear - suicide is suicide whether assisted or not. It is the act of self-destruction. It may be violent or not. We were shown a form of it in which there is virtually no pain. There is great sympathy for the person who dies and the person supporting him. My son threw himself under a train - an unimaginable horror - but apparently one in three train drivers has this experience.

    What was not shown was the effect of the death. As well as the pain of the bereavement there is the feeling of guilt - I could have done more to prevent this, I should have done this or the other and then it would not have happened, and so on. The consequences and ripples are endless. At the inquest after my son's death three months later the train driver had not been able to return to work. Now, after sixteen years, there is the same hole in our lives.

    As to my wife's death, nobody would wish a condition like that on anyone. There was a gradual decline over seven years or so - it is difficult to know at what point these diseases become established. I became her carer and at one point i wrote this.

    I am a carer.
    My wife is ill.
    Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, they say.
    P.S.P for short.
    Only it isn't short.
    It's cruel, formidable, inexorable, degenerative.
    She no longer stands, walks, writes.
    Her gaze is fixed,
    Her swallowing difficult.
    The endless television keeps her company.
    Her mind still works - mostly.
    It's called P.S.P for short.

    With this body I thee worship.
    Now I give it to her to use.
    I am her hands, her feet, her eyes,her voice.
    The mysterious bond between us still works,
    But, oh, so differently.
    We are one body, not as in young passion,
    But as in service and sacrifice and gracious acceptance.
    Life is much more fragile now but very precious.
    Please, God, keep us in your loving care.

    I believe life is for living - right to the very end. The illness gave us seven more years of each other and with an unimaginable deepening of love. I would never have believed that it was possible, but it was.

  • Comment number 28.

    Sadly I also have personal experience of end of life care in this country. My father, like Terry Pratchett, had Alzheimer's disease and died in a nursing home four weeks ago this Thursday. I wish I could say he had a dignified death, like the one the hospice movement and 'pro-life' brigade talk about, but he didn't. Unfortunately he reached the point at which he could no longer eat or drink without aspirating what was in his mouth and so we were told they would have to start a regime of nil by mouth and 'let nature take its course'. Well natures course is slow and unpleasant, it took my father seven days without water to finally dehydrate to the point he died.

    On the Today program this morning on Radio 4 they had a debate about last nights program and some Bishop or other was saying how awful it was. At one point he said that he was outraged that the man dying at Dignitas asked for water but they wouldn't give it to him; well I would like to know how he feels about being denied it for seven days?

    As others have commented, you could not allow an animal to suffer like that without being prosecuted and rightly so, yet we inflict such suffering on the most vulnerable and their families. In any other area of life could you deliberately starve and dehydrate somebody to death and claim it was 'nature taking its course' and that you had not killed them? This 'end of life pathway' or 'primrose pathway' as it is sometimes called is a lie. The moment you withhold food and drink from a person you have made the decision to end their life. I fully accept that sometimes it is not reasonable, as in my 86 year old fathers case, to prolong life any more but at the very least we should exercise the same humanity with such people as we do with our pets and livestock.

    After his death I felt, in fact still feel, profoundly guilty for not doing something to end his suffering. I considered smothering him with a pillow near the end, but just could not bring myself to do it. The thought of killing my father and having that image in my mind was too much, so like countless others I sat there with my mother wishing he would just stop breathing. As I said, no dignity, no humanity, killing people like this should be a crime and we should all be ashamed for allowing it to continue.

  • Comment number 29.

    This was a truly remarkable and deeply humane and moving programme made by and featuring remarkable and humane people. Thank you BBC for not funking this.

  • Comment number 30.

    There appears to be a lot of comments on the BBC blogs about this programme in particular - and about assisted suicide in general. I would just say that anyone who has had a partner or relative who wanted this help would tell you how important this is.
    Of COURSE it hurts those left behind - but then you hear of people who have had no choice, or who can't afford to go to Switzerland, suffering the terrible effects of a terminal illness with insufficient analgesics or who are literally starving and dehydrated to death.
    How awful are the memories that the ones who had to watch this happen?
    One thing which has NOT been mentioned is the actual love involved in these decisions. I loved my partner and didn't want him to suffer what was inevitable and he loved me and didn't want me to watch him suffer any more. He was in a much more advanced state in the disease than most and and could not have done this without the help of me and his daughters.

    Because of his decision and our love he did not have to suffer double incontinence, starvation, dehydration and total loss of control of his poor body.

    Despite the best palliative care - this is what happens, and is allowed to happen. If you find the idea scary - then perhaps you should.

    You should also give it some thought. It could happen to any of us.

  • Comment number 31.

    well done Terry and BBC - and all of the brave people depicted - for making this programme.
    It is so good to know that I am not alone in wanting a dignified death - preferably in my own home - should the need arise. My mother has Alzheimers - she used to say to me - "If I ever get dementia or Alzheimers just shoot me will you? I do not want to live like that".
    I question those who argue for the sanctity of life - how do they justify wars and the sending of young soldiers to Afghanistan. Just what cause are they dying for?

  • Comment number 32.

    A welcome and informative way of encouraging us to talk about these issues and discover what our loved ones feel and what choices they make if they were allowed to choose to die with dignity.

  • Comment number 33.

    Charlie, thank you for having the guts to film this Documentary with Terry, my hat goes off to you both.

    I have a living will that gives clear instructions of my wishes should I ever be in a position through disease, old age or accident being incapable of making decisions for myself anytime in my life....

    I have had someone feed me, change me and bath me before... when I was a child, once in my life was enough for me and anyone else.. we do not let our pets suffer in this way, why is it so hard that some of us may wish to take this decision for ourselves?

    My heart goes out to any person or families that find themselves in this position, there is no reason why suitable legislation with adequate safeguards to protect the vunerable cannot be put in place...

    Lets see more of this type of documentary from you please, excellent subject, well made and presented, thank you.

  • Comment number 34.

    Everyone forgets that we all have rights. Opponents to assisted death keep banging on about all these people who will be killed for their money etc if we bring in such a law. What an absolute load of scare mongering. As I have said everyone has their own rights, this is also something which opponents to assisted dying seem to forget.
    I do not oppose their right not to avail of assisted dying but yet they want to impose their rights over my rights to avail of assisted dying. Do opponents think they have greater rights than anyone else?

  • Comment number 35.

    It would be useful if the BBC did a documentary on the effect of Lasting Powers of Attorney as these raise many of the same 'slippery slope' issues as assisted death. LPAs on care allow attorneys to refuse treatment, even life-saving treatment, on behalf of the person who has lost capability. Evidence suggests that in other countries there has been a low take-up of rights to assisted death but opponents to assisted death argue that conditions in other countries are different to those in Britain and vulnerable people would be at risk if assisted dying was allowed because relatives or benificiaries to their wills would pressure them to die. Experience of LPAs would help answer this question. If there is evidence that relatives are forbidding treatment of people with LPAs so they are more likely to die than people without, this would justify concerns that assisted dying would lead to similar maltreatment of the vulnerable. If there is no evidence that LPAs increase the risk of dying (for example attorneys may request or demand treatment) it suggests that legalising assisted dying would not increase risks to the vulnerable.

  • Comment number 36.

    This was a very moving programme. I admired all 3 people who were near their death. The taxi driver too was great - and showed he had thought of going to Dignitas but felt lucky to have been able to choose a very nice hospice instead - realising how few places are available. If society is honest - lingering deaths will be a huge problem. Keeping people drawn out on a rack when they have no quality of life and want to pass over is not sensible or kind. I think it is just because of the fear of some people and of their religious beliefs. A democratic society should take in all beliefs.
    How brave of Andrew and also the dignity and sensitivity of Peter struck me - considerate to the administrator apologising for the paperwork. He was worried about everyone except himself! Someone to look up to!
    Well done an excellent programme that needed to be done.
    There of course must be safeguards if people seem co-erced it should not be allowed. But because of fear of this - many people could be denied a dignified end.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have admiration for anybody who is very sick and faces death. However the documentary left me ill at ease for two reasons : 1) for a brief second, the gentleman who had just taken the potion wanted to vomit–and the assisting lady very briefly held his mouth shut. So it was not 100% suicide. 2) Nothing was said about the previous life of this gentleman and his wife. Were there not OTHER reasons (not given explicitly in the program) for this act ? I wonder....

  • Comment number 38.

    After my experience (see above post 28) I just felt I had to speak up and do something. I contacted my MP and made an appointment to meet him at one of his surgery's, I then set about enlightening him with regard to just what the 'end of life pathway' was really like.

    As you might expect he listened and made all the right noises, then said he would have to consider his position as it was a complex moral question. He promised to get back to me when he has considered this but as yet I've heard nothing, however if enough people contact there MPs things will surely begin to change. So if you feel that forcing people to die in an inhuman way without choice is wrong why not write, e-mail or speak to your MP? It's what they are there for and as others have suggested one day it could be you sat watching a loved one die horrifically or lying there drying out slowly. From looking at World Health and government figures it looks like up to 40 people A DAY could be dying this way in England and Wales; do something now please.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thank you BBC,Sir Terry and entire Choosing to Die team for making and broadcasting this programme.I must also admit that it was not very easy and comfortable to watch someone dying.But i am quite sure this programme will help lot people to choose their own dignifying destiny rather than dying a very slow,painful and undignified death.I would also like to say a big thank you Andrew and Peter's family for sharing their story with us.

  • Comment number 40.

    Last nights 'Choosing to Die' was well presented and covered an emotive subject brilliantly. Pity our Government are behind other countries in embracing 'assisted suicide' and are forcing people to travel abroad for a dignified death when the time is right for the person in question? Well done BB2.

  • Comment number 41.

    I found the documentary deeply moving, and am very grateful to Peter and Andrew for allowing us to see some of their final days, and to Mick for showing us how hospice care was his choice.

    I found the treatment Sir Terry and yourself gave the subject to be excellent, and it is wonderful to see this near-taboo given serious attention.
    Sir Terry's basic views of the subject are well known, so it is not surprising that he remained broadly in favour of offering the *choice* throughout the programme.

    I was however *utterly* disgusted by the Newsnight 'debate' afterwards.

    There are three separate but inter-dependent issues here:

    1) Should we or should we not permit assisted dying or requested euthanasia under any circumstances?

    If the answer to (1) is yes:
    2) Under what circumstances can each be permitted?
    3) What protections must be put in place to prevent abuse?

    This is effectively the same as allowing people to drive motor vehicles - we have decided that we will allow personal motor vehicles on the road (1), and thus have put in place various limits and safeguards (2 and 3) eg the highway code, driving licences etc.

    I had hoped to see a debate on point 1, or points 2 and 3. None of this happened.

    There were two arguments presented by David Aaronovitch and Debbie Purdy *for* assisted dying:
    A) That people should have the choice available to them as we now consider choice and self-determination to be a fundamental human right.
    B) At present the law forces people to make the decision and die earlier than they would if they could be assisted to die in their own homes, as they must be able to travel unassisted to Switzerland.

    However the Bishop of Exeter and Liz Carr were completely unable to provide a single argument relevant to either (1), (2) or (3).

    The Bishop spent the entire debate stating and re-stating that we should 'protect the vulnerable' and complaining about the treatment of his daughter.
    While I have great sympathy for his daughter's situation, it is not relevant to this subject - she is not considered legally able to make her own decisions, and therefore could never make the decision to die.

    He had no arguments whatsoever regarding the actual subject matter, and I therefore consider him to have been an utter waste of space who should never have been invited.
    Some other person who could supply arguments relevant to the debate should have been invited instead, as the Bishop was a waste of space.

    Liz spent much of the debate criticising the documentary itself as being 'pro-assisted dying' (which is irrelevant), or complaining that it is a 'minority' who want it, so it should not even be considered!

    It's a minority of people who need the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act, so should that be repealed? Of course not!

    The only people who actually began to address any of the questions relevant to this debate were Sir Terry Pratchett and the other people who believe that we should be permitting assisting dying.

    It felt very much like nobody on the 'against' side actually had given the subject any real thought.
    Instead they continually repeated the same two or three statements with no thought or consideration as to their relevance, or consideration of any of the facts and arguments raised by Sir Terry, Debbie, or David.

  • Comment number 42.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary. Is enjoy the wrong word? I was captivated by it. Only the BBC could make a programme like this. I didn't want to watch the assisted death but could not stop watching. I had never really considered the subject before.
    I thought that there were several questions that remained unasked and therefore unanswered:
    Did either of the two men who died in the clinic practice religion and how did they balance their religion and their decision to die? Did either believe in an afterlife?

    Where was the rest of Peter's family? Was his wife left to go home all on her own? Were any of his family against the idea?

    I felt that this service provided by Dignitas was very dignified and was the Rolls Royce version but I would be concerned that if it became more available it might not be so. Everything was so well setup. Nice apartment, nice view of the mountains, peaceful not withstanding the industrial estate next door, a considerate doctor making sure that the men were completely sure of their decision and two "escorts" available on the day to assist. You could see how all of this could turn into a less dignified routine with a smaller budget, but then I suppose you pay your money and take your chances and I guess there should be equal access to all if the legislation changes.

  • Comment number 43.

    I Watched My Dad deterioate with MND If he had the option he would of approached Dignitas but why should he travel to Switzerland why couldnt he die with dignity in the comfort of his own home?. Well done BBC on covering a very emotive subject.

  • Comment number 44.

    I must start by saying that I haven't watched this programme as I would have found it too distressing, although I feel justified in giving an opinion based on my personal experience.

    My wife lost her battle with cancer last year; I sat in the room as the tumour in her brain took her away from her family. At one point during her illness, she said to me, "When I can no longer recognise my children, will you put a pillow over my face?" I looked at her and realised that she was serious. I replied, "Yes."

    As it was, that situation didn't come about. My wife had no choice but to die; the end was quicker than expected, However, her loss of vitality, mobility, hair and fingernails was, on occasion, more than she could bear. It was only the thought of seeing her children every day that kept her going.

    I believe that she should have had the right to end her life early if she had chosen to do so. To be told, "You will die at some point, but we'll limit your pain and suffering until you do..." sometimes just isn't enough. No justice system, medical board or commons committee should have the right to keep a terminally ill person alive, purely because it fits their world view. They only have the duty to decide if, in retrospect, there were suspicious or non-altruistic influences on that person's decision, and act according to statutory law.

    Thank you, Sir Terry and Mr Russell, for keeping this ethically difficult and yet fundamentally important subject in the public mind.

  • Comment number 45.

    Not much makes me cry - this did, from start to finish. Because it tackles feelings we instinctively find difficult to articulate yet feel so much about. Insightful and sensitive, it reflected my own struggle with watching my deeply loved grandmother's life slipping away, where her suffering - her BMI is 12 and we make sharp comments at models whose BMI slips below 18 - is masked by morphine. Of particular note is the rarity of comments criticising the programming - the one which stands out reads as unbalanced and well-rehearsed, lacking in empathy against a sea of compassionate support for those choosing to die. We're encouraged to make our choices in life, by religion, by politics, by cultural influences, by humans - why not in death?

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    The vast majority in this blog, reflecting a view held by many the county, are in favour of a change in the law, but ProfPhoeonix (post 7) sees fit to state “say what you like this is propaganda in favour of non voluntary euthanasia”. What arrogance! To imply whole swathes of people are unable to see through this “propaganda” and are so low in mental abilities as to be unable to think for themselves in making decisions about the manner of their deaths, is truly on a path to Hitler.

    No-one is suggesting this is an easy step, but if we are to be considered a compassionate and civilised society, we must address this issue. Those who oppose this move either through issues of faith or fear, must not be allowed to dominate the debate and railroad their views and opinions onto the rightful wishes of other individuals. This has nothing to do with non-voluntary euthanasia and nothing to do with situations described by the Bishop of Exeter, as Tom1k (post 41) pointed out. It is everything to do with individuals, in full command of their mental faculties, facing an awful and painful death, making up their own mind about how they wish to die.

  • Comment number 48.

    What a peculiar society we live in still where those against people choosing to end their own lives seem so often driven by religious beliefs or some authoritarian impulse. The fundamental question is: Why would you deny a person in sound mind the right to end their life in their own home? Can someone suggest an answer that doesn't include God?

  • Comment number 49.

    I am very grateful that the BBC had the courage to make and broadcast this film. The needed balance was within the programme itself. People who are religious can use the ideas of their chosen religion to make their own decisions - they should not however be allowed to make choices for others. That is why this programme was so welcome and important. Thank you.

  • Comment number 50.

    Whilst I can understand the emotional backlash this programme has caused I, for one, am very grateful to Sir Terry Pratchett, the BBC, and everyone involved for producing this moving documentary. I found the volunteers for filming utterly inspiring in their stoicism and bravery. I also felt the staff at Dignitas were simply wonderful.

    I wept for the distress that all these people felt through their struggles and I wept from the emotional release knowing that they had found peace.

    Contrary to some comments, I feel that a remarkable balance was achieved by the programme. I thought it very important that the chap from Dignitas pointed out that 70% of the files in the office represented people who'd simply enquired, and that knowing they had a choice helped to keep them living life.

    I applaud the BBC for showing this beautifully moving work. Thank you.

  • Comment number 51.

    I cannot watch this program in Australia online it seems. However I protest at making death a spectator 'show.' I also believe that an excellent broadcaster like the BBC must show balance on this complex, values-laden issue of assisted suicide. See https://proliving.blogspot.com/2011/03/disability-position-statement-on.html for a nuanced disability perspective on euthanasia. I challenge the BBC to engage with this perspective, including through like-minded groups in the UK.

  • Comment number 52.

    Thank you BBC and all concerned for a brilliant documentary. I think the powers that be are vastly out of touch with reality. Unfortunately I cannot see a more enlightened view in this country emerging soon. It would be nice not to have to go abroad to access this type of service, really just to have the choice if needed.

  • Comment number 53.

    I have always supported assisted suicide and found 'Choosing To Die' very moving. It will undoubtedly play an important role in opening up a debate that needs to be kept in the public domain for the sake of those people whose circumstances mean they would rather take their own life with dignity than surrender to the indignity of a progressive terminal illlness. Sir Terry Pratchett is always worth listening to. However, not everyone can afford the services of Dignitas. Would it not be fair, helpful and informative if the BBC could explore other organisations that advocate euthanasia such as Exit International? [Incidentally, assisted 'dying' is a nice turn of phrase, but suicide it is and we should not shrink from the multiple implications of that.]

  • Comment number 54.

    An incredibly difficult (and even painful) subject to film, but it was done very sensitively, and I expect many people may feel more enlightened on the subject. Although there are many pitfalls and problems, I fully believe that people who are in pain, or want to avoid the pain on their families as they deteriorate from long-term illnesses, should have the right to end their lives in a dignified manner and surrounded by the people and things they love. And as a country which champions human rights, we should respect their decision.

  • Comment number 55.

    I felt very sad when I watched "Terry Pratchett choosing to die." I am sure that the very brave man and his even braver wife really felt that they had taken the right course when his dreadful illness was diagnosed, but what a dreadful shame that in order to travel to dignitas the person choosing to die cannot be in the last stages of the illness. They have to be fit enough to travel to Switzerland etc. Life is precious, every day of it. That brave man and his lovely wife should have been able to have many more weeks of enjoying each other's company. If not months, I do not really know what I feel about euthanasia in the last stages of a dreadful illness, when all quality of life has finally and truly completely gone, but I have watched this programme and another very similar programme a while ago and in both cases the terminally or incurably ill person was still able to have some quality of life. The other programme I watched showed a woman who still enjoyed her life and admitted so, but she felt it was best to go while she still could enjoy life!! Surely surely while there is life with any quality left in it at all it is worth clinging to it? Many people say that they wouldn't let their dog suffer! But most people only take their dog to be put to sleep when the poor thing has no real quality of life left, not while it can still enjoy it's "walkies" etc. Some years ago my brother attempted to take his own life because he had terminal bowel cancer. From when it was diagnosed his only thought was that in the final stages he would take his own life, so instead of trying any other option, he refused treatment, refused surgery, Just waited for the time to take the pills!! He joined an organisation called "Exit" who gave him advice on how to commit suicide. So one day he took the pills, They didn't work. he was rushed into hospital but a lot of damage had been done by the pills, and he died a few days later. We cannot help but wonder if he had accepted all the help available and tried to beat his cancer, would he have lived happily for many more years? We all tried to talk to him to make him accept medical help, but his mind was made up!! Nothing we or anyone said or did could change his mind. The whole question of euthanisia is extremely complicated. If it was made legal in this country would it lead to other people taking the choice my brother took?

  • Comment number 56.

    Thank you all for the excellent Terry Pratchett programme. Very thought provoking. I learned a lot about Dignitas and the choice of dying when I want to. I don't have any family, so what would become of me when I'm unable to cope? I wish there was such a facility here. I didn't realise how expensive it is to belong to Dignitas but, as far as I'm concerned, it would be money well spent.

  • Comment number 57.

    I watched the documantary with my 13 year old daughter who came to my room and told me it was about to be broadcast. We were very impressed with all aspects of this important programme. I'm glad we have started talking about "the good death" and hope by the time I may need it, the law will change so I can take advantage of this option. I'm glad the new generation is more open to this issue. A big THANK YOU to all involved in the production of the documentary, and to the BBC for giving us an opportunity to watch it.

  • Comment number 58.

    Firstly I will point out I did not see the programme. Although from my post some will say he is a Christian Fundamentalist you would be and are very wrong. No I am not a supporter of Dignitas or any form of euthanasia. As far as I am concerned I firmly believe in "The Lord has given the Lord has taken away". And yes i havwe witnessed different family members dying as a result of heart problems, strokes and cancer no I would never change my views on this subject.

  • Comment number 59.

    When people cite "the Lord giveth" etc as a justification to oppose assisted suicide, I often wonder if they then disagree with patients being resusitated? Or patients being kept alive on life support? If we are free to overrule god's decisions on when people should die in order to keep them alive, then why can't we overrule the decision to allow people to die without dreadful suffering?

  • Comment number 60.

    Thank you so much to the BBC for airing this programme. For once people who are forgotten about in our society are recognised as human beings. Most people don't see terminally ill people with progressive diseases if they did it would change their minds. What most people forget is they do not know whats round the corner, maybe in your late 50's you may get MND or MS, you may die quickly or you may suffer for years. With assisted suicide in place, with the correct protocols your life can be ended peacefully.
    My mother had MS for thirty years!!! The last five years were like a horror movie. When we thought it could not get any worse, it got a lot worse. We never thought her death and quality of life would be so bad and undignified. All the MS books and websites showed MS in a positive light and never told us how bad it could get. The last five years found her combined to bed, having to be moved every hour to stop any bed sores, she could only move her head from side to side and had lost her swallowing muscles so she was unable to drink or eat so a feeding tube was put into her belly. She couldn't speak and choked quite alot when she swallowed where we had to suction the phlem from her throat. That was up to a year before she died. We cared for her at home luckily my Dad, my sisters and I adored our Mum, so she had great care even though we were not trained. The last year saw her in and out of hospital where they just didn't understand our concerns putting her in the furthest bed from the nurses station and not putting water in her feeding tube so she dehydrated and blocked the tube. Her ECG showed her brain was failing and after a couple of mini strokes, she had very few lucid moments. She could not be left for one minute. The last two days of her life the morphine was upped and we hoped she would die peacefully but that was not to happen, on the last day a woman who had not been able to sit up for 7 years, was rising her head of the pillow by a foot struggling to breath, this went on for hours and finally, probably through the morphone she slipped away.

    Please don't let people suffer in this way. I have a personal experience and I get very upset that when people comment, when they have not been through it, they are making the people today who are suffering, live a painful life. I would love tyo be able to go back and of had the law when my Mum needed it, just to see what option she would have chosen. She may have chosen to live her life to the end or she may have taken the assisted suicide road. I will never know but I feel she should of had the choice.

  • Comment number 61.

    Sir, Having watched the programme, Choosing to Die, I was very impressed with the quality and reverence the programme gave to the subject. Terry Pratchett gave so much of himself and as a member of Dignity in Dying I was pleased to have further insight into the trauma of needing to go to Dignitas to end a life. Having watched previous programmes on this subject, Choosing to Die dealt with the journey and final decisions with great dignity. There should be more programmes of this and associated subjects and many thanks to the BBC for producing it.
    Bill Hill- Member- Dignity in Dying

  • Comment number 62.

    Well done the BBC for having the guts to show this program, it was moving to say the least, it has again raised awareness of a subject that many would prefer not to acknowledge, everybody should have a choice to end their life if an illness has made it unbearable or filled with pain,its crazy but if an animal is in pain we put it out of its suffering .yet let humans suffer sometimes for months or years.

  • Comment number 63.

    When this programme was being screened on Tuesday, I felt unable to watch but recorded it because I did want to see it. Tonight, Wednesday, I did watch and was moved to tears. The programme was made in a very tasteful and caring manner without over-sentimentality. It was clear and matter-of-fact. The people who were interviewed by Sir Terry were absolutely clear in their minds as to what they wanted, including Mr Smedley. Why should people have to suffer pain and indignities when there is no need, and so long as they are clear in their own minds about the end they desire, there should be no barrier. The staff at the Swiss Dignitas clinic did a most thorough check to be sure it was clear in the person's mind and that they were not being coerced or persuaded into this action, although there are many, many people who have to suffer the indignity of their illness owing to a lack of 10k. It's time the people of this country woke up to the fact that there should be choice as to whether they live or die with a painful terminal illness. Those who are against the procedure are within their rights not to take advantage of it, but those in greatest pain should have the RIGHT to end their life should they so desire. Let it not be 'life at any cost'. Everyone wake up to the fact it is 21st century and no-one should have to suffer at the end of their lives, never mind palliative care, hospices or anything else designed to calm and comfort. It doesn't work and, as we are alwys being told, is an unnecessary drain on our NHS when the person no longer wishes to be here. Help those who want to die and look after those who don't. No pressure on either side of the fence.

  • Comment number 64.

    Thank you Charlie, Terry and the BBC for a landmark programme. I felt that most of the tears were flowing because the two intelligent and charming men who we got to know had their lives cut short. Andrew Colgan looked ten years younger than his 42 years and that made it even more poignant. But I also felt consoled that they did exercise the right to choose when to go. I cannot help but see the irony that those people who believe in a 'loving God' who creates such pain and hopelessness are the same people who want to tell the rest of us how to live - and end - our lives.

  • Comment number 65.

    This was an incredibly moving documentary on a topic that is long overdue for frank and open discussion. As a long-term supporter of Assisted Dying, I can only hope that it reignites the debate over the long overdue change in the law.

    As a health professional, I have seen too much suffering to blindly accept that today's medicine, including palliative care, is the only answer. Many of my colleagues have been known to quietly use the phrase "you wouldn't do this to a dog" and I couldn't agree more. It is obscene that people have to go before they are ready, when they are still fit enough to travel to Switzerland and, despite the policy announcement by the DPP, risk the prosecution of their loved ones.

    When my time comes, if there is a risk of a long, drawn out death, I hop that I will be able to die a quick and dignified death in this country, surrounded by my loved ones.

    The BBC and Sir Terry Pratchett should be applauded for this program. May Andrew and Peter rest in peace.

  • Comment number 66.

    I appreciated that this documentary provided a look into the other 'argument/side' as I think that this is VERY important. Just wanted to quickly ask whether you would consider asking Cannon Andrew White how he feels on the subject as he also suffers from MS like the young man on the program, and has for several years- currently he has an anglican church in Baghdad in the red zone where he bring aid to those who ask for it- a man of great compassion and intelligence who could give a great perspective from the other side which I think is necessary as this is a subject that should be fairly represented from both points of view.

  • Comment number 67.

    My husband died of Motor Neurone Disease 9 years ago, he could not speak, eat or breathe easily, he withdrew from life and his family. He desperately wanted to die . Given the chance to take control of his death, he would have . We need this option in the UK. I was moved at the respect Peter Smedley was given and it was his own choice, constantly asked if he was sure, it was his wish. The files of people who had applied to Dignitas and knew they had that option but chose not to take it speaks volumes, it is all about choice.
    Nobody wants to confront this situation but when you experience this for real ,it would have been an option my husband would have taken if it was available in the UK.

  • Comment number 68.

    AllI can say is that I felt that the programme, and indeed the many comments made here, are very valuable. This debate needs to be had often and widely. My parents both dies of cancer, and she asked me to end her life. I didn't. If I had my time again... I'm not sure...

  • Comment number 69.

    I only got around to watching this programme this morning. I lost my beloved husband in 2008 to an aggressive form of Motor Neurone, I saw how the disease affected him, and me and our 4 year old daughter; he was only 51 when he died. After seeing how destructive this disease is I applaud Peter Smedley's decision and bravery and also that of his wife and fully understand why he made the decision to end his life voluntarily, he had a kinder end to his life than my husband who was just made "comfortable". I sat at his side for 2 weeks in hospital and at the end when he said he had "had enough" I had to watch him be sedated because he was panicking when he realised he could not breathe, it broke my heart and I still have nightmares after witnessing it all almost 3 years later.

  • Comment number 70.

    Thank you, Charlie, for making this programme and to the BBC for airing this programme. There have been complaints that this was a one sided, and therefore biased view of assisted suicide.
    As it was clearly billed as Terry Pratchett "facing his darkest fears as he considers the possibility of an assisted death" then yes, I was expecting it to be an individual view.

    In fact I thought it gave a very balanced view. showing the views of the 2 people who had chosen assisted death, another who had chosen paliative care. Sir Pratchett's assistant was obviously uncomfortable with the concept of assisted death, and Sir Pratchett himself, not sure if it is an option for him, yet.

    What he was sure about was it is not right that people who do want this choice have to travel to a foreign country, and that it should be available in Britain.

    The main argument when the case for assisted death is raised is always that there is paliative care. What came out from this programme is, it is not a case of one or the other. It is about choice. I hope I will live to a great age and die in my sleep, but that may not be the case. I have no religious belief. Therefore I would like to know I have the option, if in the future, I am ever in a position to consider the need to take control of the time and place of my death.

    I feel this programme advocated that perspective. Thank you to Sir Terry, and all those involved, including the families of Peter and Andrew who allowed us the privilage of hearing from them.

  • Comment number 71.

    I simply want to say, having watched the programme a few days after the event and having heard and read some of the subsequent furore (the antis inevitably given disproportionate coverage in the news), how glad I am that the BBC considers its audience sufficiently grown-up to discuss such matters. The refusal by politicians and others (bishops in the House of Lords come to mind) to allow such an essential debate is a denial of the right, quoted in the programme, of self-determination.
    Terry Pratchett, Charlie Russell, and all the people shown were dignified, honest, straightforward, did not seek to dissemble or fudge the issue - the face of Sir Terry's assistant was enough to show that no decision in such a matter is one-sided.
    If this programme helps move UK policy in the direction of Switzerland's, Terry Pratchett will have done more good in one hour than in all the thousands of hours of entertainment his books have provided.

  • Comment number 72.

    I've just watched Newsnight from Scotland and the issue of assisted death was brought up. Having watched the incredibly moving programme on Tuesday evening I was amazed to hear the reactions from the politicians on the board. From other bloggs on this site, and generally just living in the real world, there was a sickening lack of understanding from our 'people in power'. Both of the people on the panel who were opposed to assisted death admitted to not having watched the programme. Either they're so rich their relatives have all had very excellent private health care in their last days or they have never lost someone very dear to them on a ward in an overcrowded hospital.

    Why are we so scared of what other European countries have allowed for more than a decade? There is no statistical evidence that Belgium or Switzerland have a greater suicide rate than the UK, quite the opposite...........Daily Mail, your days are numbered!! It's a very sad outlook if we in the UK are worried that our relatives are ready to bump us off the minute we look a bit under the weather! Please stop underestimating us, we are a proud people and love our elders and betters.

  • Comment number 73.

    Sorry, feel quite strongly about this! I didn't realise it took quite so long to post things, thought it might be a bit more conversational! However, I think this is such an important topic that I want a voice and I'm not sure where else to get it.

    Both my parents wrote living wills, my father died from cancer in a hospice where the morphine doses were absolutely bumped up to allow him to die without pain and I have nothing but respect for those people. The problem came from what preceeded that and the mental agony he went through. He continually asked to die but we were all helpless to do anything. I would be grateful if any doctors out there could tell me what the oath is.... is it to preserve life at whatever the cost? I would like to be able to cut my losses before it gets too bad. This has never been a discussion about 'suicide or not', it's about having the choice to be able to end life when it no longer has any meaning. All the media hype saying it's bad because it's putting pressure on the elderly to do away with themselves is total rubbish. I do wish people people would educate themselves before they judge people...

  • Comment number 74.

    An excellent programme: very measured, even though highly emotionally charged. It helped me a good deal. I have Parkinson's Disease: at present in the early, and perfectly manageable stages, but later it could become unbearable and I would want to be able to take my own way out of such an unbearable life. I had just two small niggles about the programme. Firstly, as a Zoologist myself, I would want to know just what is in that "poison", and what, clinically, does it do? We were told that it induced sleep, then respiratory failure, heart failure, and brain death - but not how. Secondly, and more importantly, we were told that the filming of Peter's death was "truthful", and it certainly appeared that the filming was continuous, and fully representative. Yet later we learned that this section was cut to some degree - Terry Pratchett spoke of Peter's thanking of the crew members individually, and his concern that he had forgotten one member's name, and other events that occurred after Peter had taken the 2nd, final dose of medication that we did not see. Just what happened in these cut moments, and how long did it really take for sleep, then death, to supervene after taking the "poison"?

    These minor points aside, the film was a tremendous contribution to the debate, and most welcome. In total contrast, the Newsnight discussion that followed was for me a waste of time and a great irritation. All the contributors, the Chairman included, came to the discussion with a fixed view which they intended to place firmly on the table, regardless of context. No-one seemed prepared to open-mindedly consider the fundamental issues such as why is it so often deemed "wrong" in principle to take your own life? Why should having a terminal illness make suicide more acceptable than living with a progressive and eventually very distressing, but not terminal disease (such as Parkinson's)?

    For myself, I am certain that if my life becomes intolerable, I will end it somehow. Dignitas is not the perfect solution, but it is better than many. Arguments that I might change my mind if I lived on are irrelevant: when I'm dead, I won't care about what might have been. The only people who would matter, were I to be considering suicide, are the loved ones I leave behind: what they might have to endure, and how that compares with what they would have to endure if I remained alive, are the only external considerations that would affect my decisions.

  • Comment number 75.

    I'd just like to thank everyone who's posted a comment on this blog - the response has been overwhelming. I appreciate that this is a very emotive and often divisive issue, so thank you for all the messages of support, as well as the debate on both sides that this has provoked. It was a very difficult film to make and a real challenge to balance Terry’s personal journey with the wider subject, though I’ve found that the complexities of the stories of the people Terry and Rob met, and their differing reactions to these, have been received in a wide variety of ways by people on both sides of the argument. It’s clearly not a simple or straight-forward subject, but I hope that the public debate the programme has sparked has encouraged a more detailed discussion.

  • Comment number 76.

    Just to react to @72 BackStreetDriver, perhaps one of the reasons why Scottish politicians won't have been so influenced or indeed interested in the film is that the Scottish parliament recently considered and overwhelmingly rejected assisted suicide. My doubts on the documentary are simply that I'm not sure how much further forward it takes us in the debate. Anyone seeing human suffering sympathizes and wants to relieve it, hence the entirely understandable emotional reaction in favour of assisted suicide. But once this emotional reaction is over, there is a need for careful thought about the social effects of institutionalizing euthanasia, particularly on the ethos of the medical profession. That's a process the Scottish parliament went through and came to the decision that it was simply too dangerous to introduce euthanasia. From that perspective, I can see why turning to this film may not have seemed like a priority to them. Human suffering is terrible, but how best to relieve it is a matter for hard thought, not the sort of emotional insight provided in the documentary.

  • Comment number 77.

    There were more peoplewho complained about this programme than supported it. This doesn't mean that more people disagreed with its content but showed the nature of the people who felt the need to complain. Many religious and profoundly disabled people found it an affront that a person chose to die with what some perceived as problems that weren't that bad or who it was felt hadn't appreciated those aspects of lfe still worth living. Many of these people think if someone chooses to die with less of a disability than they have that the message they're giving is that those with worse disabilities shouldn't live either. When a person chooses to die - it is about them and what they want and can handle and not a judgement on others - and should therefore not be used as such. those whose religion causes them to be so against a persons personal choice are not compassionate or spreading god's will (who gave them that right?), but trying to inflict their belief of what is right on others without fully appreciating or understnading what mental, emotional and physical suffering they are experiencing. Many people against euthanasia would be the first to want an animal put down rather than let it suffer, but can't show the same compassion to a human. weare all different and all have our own thresholds.

  • Comment number 78.

    I strongly support voluntary euthanasia with safeguards and it is time that we changed the law. There are situations in which "care" has nothing to offer and it is not always restricted to "terminal" conditions. I was left with appalling progressive side-effects of a drug that was prescribed for me. This group of drugs is known to have potentially serious side-effects, some of which appear after ceasing to take the drug, as in my case, and they can be permanent. They have made my life virtually unbearable and I long to die. I have no objection to the "do-gooders", many of which my argue that "God gave them life and only God can take it away" practicing that view, but they have no right to inflict in on others. I believe that most old people would prefer to have the option to die under certain circumstances but cannot face a traumatic end or an end with an uncertain outcome; old or disabled people may not be able to organize it anyway. It takes huge courage to put your head on a railway line and wait for a train or to jump from a high place and face the prospect of a delayed traumatic death or even survival. Even drug overdose is very unpredictable. This type of death has very serious effects upon the memories of loved ones who may have to face identification of the body or its parts, or on visions of what it might have been like. They never get over this. Perhaps some of those who oppose voluntary euthanasia should go and view a few; I have seen many.
    Sid Edgar

  • Comment number 79.

    Add your comment.

    If it were to become the norm then many might make use of it as much to escape their disillusionment with those who will have been shown to be as close to their financial self interest as the NHS as to their's in their post bona fide public service corporatist reconfiguration.

  • Comment number 80.

    What we need is a more responsive, caring respite system. A friend of mine ruined her life looking after her husband. At the beginning she was 65 going on 50 at the end she was 75 going on 90. For the last few years her husband was taken to a "centre" for a few hours a week. He was abusive, violent, prone to get up and walk out of the house naked for no apparent reason - in other words a handful and he was at least twice the size of her. Beforehand he was the most gentle loving guy. She didn't want him dead - she just wanted a rest more frequently - it can't be that difficult to achieve


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