BBC OnePanorama


Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Wednesday, 10 May 2006 19:33 UK

A good time to say goodbye?

Diane Pretty
Diane Pretty fought for assisted suicide but failed

Panorama asked should society allow people to receive medical assistance to die if they are suffering unbearably with terminal illnesses?

Or is physician-assisted suicide a step on a road to euthanasia?

Four years ago, Diane Pretty fought for the right to die on her terms. Suffering from motor neurone disease, she felt that she was effectively dead.

The programme would allow pupils to see the reality of living with terminal illnesses
Andrew Lloyd Teacher

Diane Pretty wanted to change the law on assisted suicide for terminally ill people so that her husband Brian could help her to die.

But the British courts ruled that she did not have the right to determine when and how she died.

When she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg it upheld the British law claiming it protected the weak and the vulnerable.

Since the Diane Pretty case, 43 Britons have travelled to Switzerland to commit suicide with the aid of a Swiss charity called Dignitas.

The House of Lords blocked a bill on Friday 12 May which attempted to change the law on assisted suicide.

Ahead of the bill, some of Britain's foremost lawyers in medical ethics debated the issue on Panorama on Wednesday 10 May. The programme also contained interviews with people for whom this is a very personal issue.

Gill Gerhardi has cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis but is a firm opponent of assisted suicide and told Panorama she believes "it encourages people to give up".

Dr Anne Turner
Dr Anne Turner chose assisted suicide outside the UK

Panorama also interviewed Sophie Pandit, the daughter of Dr Anne Turner who was one of the 43 Britons who travelled to Switzerland to commit suicide.

Sophie believes that the current law meant her mother had to choose to die before she was ready and denied her time at the end of her life.

The programme featured Baroness Ilora Finlay who is a pioneer of palliative care and opponent of the change in the law.

In the film, Diane's husband Brian is equally forceful in his belief that assisted suicide for the terminally ill who are suffering unbearably should be legalised.

Panorama: A Good Time To Say Goodbye? was on BBC One on May 10 2006.

Doctors oppose right-to-die law
10 May 06 |  Health
Please help me die
29 Apr 02 |  Panorama


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