Franklin James Cook

TV’s Airing of Suicide Evokes Prime Minister’s Comment

In Media, Policy on December 10, 2008 at 8:36 am

ORIGINAL REPORT — British media have been covering for several days the decision by Sky TV to broadcasat the 2006 assisted-suicide death of a 59-year-old American man who was living in the United Kingdom during the time of his illness and death.

The London Evening Standard reports on the comments made last night by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the matter:

Asked whether he thought the documentary was in the public interest or “distasteful voyeurism”, Mr. Brown said: “I believe that it’s necessary to ensure that there is never a case in this country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death, or somehow feels it is the expected thing to do.

“That’s why I have always opposed legislation for assisted deaths.”

Turning to whether the programme should be broadcast, the Prime Minister said: “It’s very important that these issues are dealt with sensitively and without sensationalism. I hope broadcasters will remember that they have a wider duty to the general public.”

On a Sky News blog, Executive Editor Chris Birkett, states that the main point of the broadcast is getting lost in an uproar over broadcasting a person’s “moment of death”:

At its most basic the documentary asks the question: Is there a right to die? It’s not a new debate but the film’s emotional intensity ensures it gets another airing.

There is a second issue: Should the moment of an individual’s death be broadcast on television? And it’s this question that seems to have got the media so steamed up.

[The abridged URL for this story is  http://tinyurl.com/PM-Comment .]

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