Saturday, 21 September 2013

New round of celebrity-led cheer-leading for assisted suicide

This story is covered in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph

Euthanasia season has arrived and the pro-death lobby, aided by their cheerleader and press office, the BBC, are now gearing up for a campaign aimed at forcing the legalisation of assisted suicide through British Parliaments both north and south of Hadrian’s Wall. 

Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill had its first reading in the House of Lords in May and Margo Macdonald’s Scottish bill is to be published next month.

Expect no let up for several months as story after supportive story mysteriously fills our television screens and airwaves.

In pushing their cause, this alliance of private campaigners and publicly-funded ‘news’ generators will face four major lines of opposition: parliamentarians, doctors, faith groups and disabled people.

Neutralising these opponents will be their major focus as they seek to build their case around emotive testimonies and celebrity endorsement (See here and listen here for why their ideas should actually be given short shrift).

Their aim will be to find ‘role models’ from each of these ‘problem groups’ willing to become a public voice for their campaign to help create the impression that their proposals of ‘assisted dying with safeguards’ have universal backing.

Dignity in Dying (DID), the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society, has already established a group of retired professors and past medical leaders - originally HPFC but now rebranded HPAD (Health Professionals for Assisted Dying) - to counter the inconvenient fact that the BMA, all major medical colleges and two thirds of all doctors are opposed to any change in the law. They are now infiltrating the RCGP to try to push it neutral after failing to do the same with the BMA and have support from the editor of the BMJ. HPAD represents a massive 0.25% of doctors (Yes that's one quarter of one per cent).

Gathering a lobby of clerics has proved even more difficult but DID has managed to scrape together a flock of ‘faith leaders’ under the leadership of liberal rabbi Jonathan Romain. Interfaith Leaders for Dignity In Dying (or IFDiD) uses highly unorthodox interpretations of sacred texts to push the view that helping people to kill themselves is consistent with ‘loving one’s neighbour’.

In parliament there is the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Choice at the End of Life chaired by Heidi Alexander, Labour MP for Lewisham East. But their real champion is Lord Falconer, whose sham commission on ‘assisted dying’, stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers, recommended just over a year ago that the law should be changed to allow doctors to be licensed to dispense lethal drugs to mentally competent adults with less than six months to live. His bill currently before parliament seeks to make this a reality.

Disabled people have been much more difficult to pull into line, especially given that all the country’s major disability advocacy groups – SCOPE, Disability Rights UK, Not Dead Yet UK and UKDPC – remain opposed to any change in the law. They, more than anyone, know how easily vulnerable people can be pushed into ending their lives so as not to be a financial or emotional burden to others. 

So the pro-death lobby has been looking for a disabled people’s champion to become the new poster boy for the campaign. And this week they found him –in celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking.

The only missing ingredient was the means of getting international media coverage for Falconer and Hawking. Enter the BBC.

The publication of Hawking’s new book provided the hook for an invitation onto the BBC Breakfast national news programme last Tuesday where Hawking could be asked the question that would elicit the answer required to create the international news story:

‘I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives and those who help them should be free from prosecution. But there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent, as would have been the case with me.’

Now the stage was fully set for Falconer the next day, on the very same programme, to promote his bill as the solution. But in order for him to do this unimpeded the opportunity for any cross-examination to take place, or contrary position to be put, had to be nullified.

On Tuesday night I received a text from a BBC Breakfast producer asking me, as campaign director of the Care Not Killing Alliance, to contribute to the programme at 0820 the following day:

‘Hi Peter, James at BBC Breakfast here. We’d like you on the show tomorrow morning talking about Stephen Hawking. Are you available?’

I phoned back and accepted. ‘James’ lined me up to speak to camera at the Oxford Street Studios the following morning and said he would ring me back in five minutes to confirm travel arrangements.

Ten minutes later I was dumped by text:

‘Thanks for speaking to me just now. Afraid we’re not going to talk to you on the programme on this occasion. Sorry for the hassle. James, BBC Breakfast.’

I was naturally interested to see who they had in my place. But next morning, it was a one-to-one interview with Lord Falconer that was heavily billed throughout the programme.

So how did our national broadcaster provide ‘balanced coverage’ on this contentious issue?

Basically we had the extract from Hawking interview the previous day followed by the presenters, Bill Turnbull and Susannah Reid, offering Falconer an open goal to say what he wanted in order to promote his bill.

Falconer understandably grasped the opportunity with both hands and waxed lyrical about how wonderful things were in Oregon and will be here too once his bill was passed - far safer than at present when we all have to go off to Switzerland where there are no ‘safeguards’. There was no serious challenge and no opposing view put.

Why did they drop me? One can only speculate. I suspect that BBC cheer-leading played a part, but I suspect also that Falconer, possibly remembering our last debate on the Radio Four Today programme, might have said that he would prefer to speak unopposed and they deferred to his requests. 

I guess we will never know – unless someone truly in the know speaks out.

But this is just the latest in a long line of episodes of BBC cheerleading for various forms of euthanasia.

Yes, I’ve written to the Director General of the BBC about it and have encouraged others to complain. But I am not holding my breath.

In the meantime I have been privy to a conversation this week of angry disability rights leaders wondering what they have to do to get their voices heard in the media. My advice is not to try the BBC. 


  1. Don't really understand your objection to assisted (or any other) suicide.

    Why did the broadcast at no point allow a contrary view to be expressed?

    What exactly is a contrary view? Your links are vague on this point. I read you feel assisted suicide is "unethical" and so on but I can't find any points that bolster that claim. A serious inquiry --- thanks.

    1. See these comments on Hawking -

    2. As far as I can tell, here you are arguing against what you claim are popular defenses of euthanasia or assisted suicide, as opposed to arguing against euthanasia (or A.S.) itself. These of course are not the same thing. I'm wondering what's wrong--ethically or as matter of normative judgment--with an individual's personal choice to end his own life. You are arguing against potential pitfalls in how A.S. is codified--fair enough, but I'm asking more of a meta-ethical question. Try this: I plan to end my own life when I reach a physical state that is no longer worth sustaining -- a qualitative judgment that I alone will make -- irrespective of what the law says. Please explain what's wrong with that decision, and be specific because when I say "I plan" I mean I am literally planning this course of action and I'm entirely at peace with it. Thanks

    3. I suspect Peter's objections mirror mine - nothing 'wrong' with suicide, but making assisted suicide *legally* available puts a large number of vulnerable individuals (the elderly and disabled, for a start) at risk of being pressured into ending their lives. Do you not get that?

  2. EUTHANASIA STOP - in Belgium ( and @EuthanasieSTOP ) kinda proves how very UNPOPULAR euthanasia really is with medical practitioners in those European countries where its been legalised. Even the KNMG (equivalent to GMC in the NL) refused to regulate it, and only 200 of the 20,000 registered medical practitioners there lowered themselves to act as the legally required 'second opinion' doctors.
    Its an odd observation, but the most vocal politicians who support it (Bragg, Neuberger, Bakewell, Falconer) are all a) personal friends of Terry Pratchett, and b) completely unelected.Call that 'democracy'?

    Furthermore, the reality of 'legalised euthanasia' in Switzerland is massively manipulated by certain factions in the media....why ARE the police in that country now being asked to investigate so many coerced euthanasias ?? Its because their police force has only recently set up a dedicated helpline for these cases....

  3. .....given that you can't even get the police to investigate the continous terminal sedation of a non terminally ill nhs patient using the liverpool care pathway in this country if you are a native English speaker....the volume of relatives previously ignored by the Swiss Police (who only handled inquiries in Swiss German!!) may prove to have been absolutely massive.

    Dignitas - so 'humane', so 'ethical' the Swiss Police had to send in an undercover officer to obtain evidence of the abuse..... -

  4. This euthanasia thing was to be expected to happen considering the nature of the society we are living in.With the traditional social values being systematically and deliberately destroyed,it is to be expected that a new value system is introduced.Considering that many people in power world wide are members of various organizations and cults obsessed with death,it is only natural that their value system is being promulgated and pushed forward as a replacement for the the values which they had destroyed in the first place.For instance,how can we expect from a prominent skull-and-bones member to have compassion on Syrian children?Such a person can only be expected to help them DIE in the name of compassion.Or a privileged eugenicist to care about the disabled?Or the followers of Margaret Sanger to care about the unborn?The BBC's reaction also comes as no surprise at all.Corporate media necessarily push the agenda of their pay masters,like the BBC's alleged involvement in psyops in Iran which according to some sources were fully funded by the dept of state.If true,how can anyone expect an independent and unbiased journalistic approach from them?Good old days are gone.Maybe they were never here anyway...

  5. We looked into this issue last year in a consultation at Windsor, where we heard from Canon James Woodward. He visited Dignitas and described a woman who had opted for assisted dying. The story reminded me of a scene from Solent Green where someone commits suicide as he has lost all hope. What bothers me most of all about this issue is how it is impossible to legislate and how vulnerable people will be manipulated into suicide. Imagine your mother who you have had a very difficult relationship needs care for many years. You live 200 miles away and she will have to sell her house to pay for that care. Do you give up work to care for a woman you find difficult? Then do you give up the £250,000 in inheritance taken to pay for her care? How easy would it be to convince her to lose hope and die in a dignified way, sparing you years of trouble and you get the house too. How can we really assess who is making the decision? Scary prospect for the most vulnerable in society.

    1. Yes indeed. I have elaborated on some of the concerns about Hawking's proposal here -

  6. ..PS: just found an old article written by Rabbi Neuberger in the 1990s entitled 'Let's Do Away With Patients'...strangely prophetic and rather sick in hindsight...


      The article in question merely discusses the use of the word 'patient' as being out of date in a culture where the doctor no longer calls all of the shots, but must see the 'patient' as a partner in care. Not a passive recipient, in other words.

  7. Interesting, isn't it, that as far as I can see Tanni Grey-Thompson's comments on Stephen Hawking ( have gone unreported on the BBC? It's not only chilling for the disabled but also for those of us with a "terminal" condition.

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  9. I am opposed to assisted dying / suicide for many of the reasons stated above by others.
    However I have and have had for many years a concern regarding medical intervention (Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy medical intervention in my life when necessary). My concern is that with the advances in medical research and intervention we are condemning people to lives that are painful for them or relatives, friends to live with.
    It is not that long ago that many of the illnesses and injuries that people have today and survive would not have lived.
    So I keep asking myself should we continue preserving life as we do today or should we accept that our lives and times are in God's hands and we should not interfere.
    As I see it so much of medical research is aimed not at preserving the quality of life but rather the length of life regardless of what it leaves in its wake.
    An example of this level of medical intervention is Professor Hawking himself, it is not many years ago that he would have died as the technology to keep him alive did not exist and in view of his comments I wonder does he now have regrets of what has happened, medically, in his life.


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