Star Trek actor Stewart joins assisted suicide debate

Image caption,
Sir Patrick Stewart became a Dignity in Dying patron in February

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart has spoken about his decision to become a patron of an organisation campaigning to legalise assisted suicide in the UK.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, the 70-year-old said the choice to have an assisted death "should be a right".

"Should the time come for me... I would like there to be a choice I might make about how I die," he continued.

His comments follow those of author Sir Terry Pratchett, who is to appear in a BBC documentary about assisted suicide.

"I believe everybody possessed of a debilitating and incurable disease should be allowed to pick the hour of their death," said the 62-year-old, who was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's in 2008.

News of the BBC Two programme, to be shown this summer, drew censure from the Care Not Killing organisation, which accused the BBC of "acting like a cheerleader for legalising assisted suicide".

Both Sir Patrick and Sir Terry are patrons of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

Care Not Killing campaigns against any such change in legislation, promoting instead the provision of "more and better" palliative care.

In his interview, Sir Patrick said his mind had been made up following a heart procedure he underwent five years ago after being diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

He also mentioned a family friend who had been "driven to an extreme situation of ending their life in the most ghastly way".

Last year a UK inquiry into the issue of assisted suicide was launched with funding from Sir Terry.

Chaired by former justice secretary Lord Falconer, the Commission on Assisted Dying is expected to publish its findings in December.

Best known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sir Patrick has also been seen in the X-Men films.

Later this year he will play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 50th birthday season.

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