BBC Documentary gives a human face to the complexity and importance of the ‘assisted dying’ debate

A BBC documentary shown last night and presented by BHA Distinguished Supporter Sir Terry Pratchett, followed the journey and eventual death of a man who had chosen to have an assisted death at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Assisted dying is a complex issue that evokes powerful opinions on both sides of the debate – which is why the BHA believes that a documentary such as this should be applauded rather than criticised.  The BHA campaigns for a change in the law to make assisted dying legal in the UK.

Campaigning for assisted dying in the UK has been especially relevant recently for the BHA: earlier this year we submitted written and oral evidence to the Commission on Assisted Dying, which is an independent body set up to investigate what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be assisted to die. The BHA’s position outlined in these submissions is that with proper legal safeguards and a well-structured framework to prevent misuse, assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia are ways for the terminally ill and incurably suffering to receive help ending their lives with dignity. Of central importance are principles of dignity, compassion and autonomy – to help those who cannot help themselves is often the most moral action available and should be legalised. The BHA is campaigning for a change in the law with the intention that instead of devaluing life (as opposition to reform claims), legalising assisted dying will make for a more compassionate society that values real quality of life.

Far from promoting, glorifying or sentimentalising assisted dying, last night’s programme simply demonstrated that death is not necessarily something to be feared. In fact, giving people the ability to choose the time of their death in light of progressive or terminal illness actually shows real respect for ‘life’, by respecting the decisions of those who actually live those lives.

Notes

Watch the documentary on iPlayer.

See our pages on assisted dying.

For further comment or information, please contact Naomi Phillips on 07540 257101.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.