The BBC's presentation of “assisted dying”
My attention was drawn to this by an email from Care Not Killing.
Care Not Killing (I quote from their website) is a UK-based alliance of individuals and organisations which brings together disability and human rights groups, healthcare providers, and faith-based bodies, with the aims of:
1. promoting more and better palliative care;
2. ensuring that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed;
3. influencing the balance of public opinion against any further weakening of the law.
CNK recently made a formal complaint to Lord Hall, Director-General of the BBC, regarding the BBC's coverage of several cases in which assisted suicide was discussed.
One of these was an interview with Paul Lamb, assisted dying campaigner, which apparently did not include any counter-arguments nor even suggest that there might be a different viewpoint. Another was a recent episode of the John Beattie Show (BBC Radio Scotland), in which there was discussion of attempts to change the law on assisted suicide. Apparently two guests argued in favour of changes to the law such as to allow assisted suicide in at least some cases, but no-one putting the opposite viewpoint was interviewed.
Then there was the BBC's coverage of campaigner Geoff Whaley's death by assisted suicide at Dignitas in Switzerland. This featured an interview involving Mr. Whaley, his wife, and the BBC's Home Editor Mark Easton. The only suggestion that there might even be an alternative point of view was made by Mr. Easton, in a two-faced question: 'For some people, the moment of your passing is a matter for the Almighty, and not for you. Do you respect that view?'
As CNK comments:
'Not only did he make very little attempt to note that there exists opposition to legalising assisted suicide, but when he did, he used it as an opportunity to paint opposition as a niche religious view rather than acknowledging the diverse viewpoints - of healthcare professionals, disabled people, relatives, humanists… - which coalesce around evidence-based support for existing protections'.
('A niche religious view' is a very apt description of how the BBC tries to pigeonhole Christianity)
Not only is there clear bias in the way the BBC presents assisted suicide, but also culpable irresponsibility on the part of BBC producers, in indirectly encouraging consideration of suicide as an acceptable choice on the part of anyone experiencing long-term suffering. CNK points out that it is worrying to see BBC items on the matter not linking to groups such as the Samaritans for those viewing them who are feeling depressed or suicidal.
CNK's complaint has been reported in national media (specifically, the Sunday Times) so hopefully will not be allowed to fade quietly into the background.
CNK's website is to be found at: https://www.carenotkilling.org.uk/
By Prayer Crusader St Teresa of Avila
To summarise the reasons why assisted suicide should not be legalised I cannot do better than to quote again from the website:
Any change in the law to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others. This would especially affect people who are disabled, elderly, sick or depressed.
• Persistent requests for euthanasia are extremely rare if people are properly cared for so our priority must be to ensure that good care addressing people's physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs is accessible to all.
• The present law making assisted suicide and euthanasia illegal is clear and right and does not need changing. The penalties it holds in reserve act as a strong deterrent to exploitation and abuse whilst giving discretion to prosecutors and judges in hard cases.
• Hard cases make bad law. Even in a free democratic society there are limits to human freedom and the law must not be changed to accommodate the wishes of a small number of desperate and determined people.
• The pressure people will feel to end their lives if assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalised will be greatly accentuated at this time of economic recession with families and health budgets under pressure. Elder abuse and neglect by families, carers and institutions are real and dangerous and this is why strong laws are necessary.
• Parliament has rightly rejected the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Britain four times since 2006 out of concern for public safety - in the House of Lords (2006 and 2009) and in Scotland (2010 and 2015) - and repeated extensive enquiries have concluded that a change in the law is not necessary.
• The number of British people travelling abroad to commit assisted suicide or euthanasia is very small (273 in 13 years) compared to numbers in countries that have legalised assisted suicide or euthanasia. With an 'Oregon' law we would have 1,500 deaths a year and with a 'Dutch' law 16,000.
• If assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalised any 'safeguards' against abuse, such as limiting it to certain categories of people, will not work. Instead, once any so-called 'right-to-die' is established we will see incremental extension with activists applying pressure to expand the categories of people who qualify for it.
• The vast majority of UK doctors are opposed to legalising euthanasia along with the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Association for Palliative Medicine and the British Geriatric Society.
• All major disability rights groups in Britain (including Disability Rights UK, SCOPE, UKDPC and Not Dead Yet UK) oppose any change in the law believing it will lead to increased prejudice towards them and increased pressure on them to end their lives.
• Inappropriate media portrayal of suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia will fuel copycat suicides and suicide contagion. International media guidelines must be upheld and complied with.
• Public opinion polls can be easily manipulated when high media profile (and often celebrity-driven) 'hard cases' are used to elicit emotional reflex responses without consideration of the strong arguments against legalisation.