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Majority (70%) of people believe BBC were right to screen Terry Pratchett’s documentary, Choosing to die

BBC 2 screened the documentary Choosing to Die presented by the author Sir Terry Pratchett on Monday. The programme showed the last moments and the death of Peter Smedley, who was terminally ill with Motor Neurone Disease, at Dignitas in Switzerland. It has subsequently been reported in some media that the BBC has received a number of complaints about the documentary from the likes of Care Not Killing, and Care – two organisations opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying. However, as well as the comments on message boards and in social media being overwhelmingly in favour of the documentary, a YouGov poll conducted about the programme found that most people (70%) thought that it was ‘right to show the film’.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“I agree with the majority of the public who believe that it was right for the documentary to be aired. While the programme was at times difficult to watch, it showed the reality that many dying people and their loved ones face at the end of their lives in this country. We need to have a sensible debate on assisted dying, and Choosing to Die will play an important part in that debate.

“We must be careful to ensure that complaints from a minority over how and where the documentary was aired do not overshadow the important question the programme raised; how do we address the current problem that dying adults in the UK are either suffering unbearably and against their wishes, or taking matters into their own hands at the end of their lives? Not only are people travelling abroad to die, but there are also those who are ending their lives at home, behind closed doors, or with the help of doctors and loved ones who are helping illegally. Much better would be an assisted dying law with upfront safeguards, which would investigate a request to die when the person is still alive and alternative options can be set out. This would both protect potentially vulnerable people and provide choice at the end of life for those suffering unbearably. Furthermore it would allow people to die at home surrounded by their loved ones.

“The problem is clear; it is now time for decision-makers to engage with how we ensure that all people can have what they consider to be a good death.”


Notes to editor:

About Dignity in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.

About the Poll:

Media Contacts:

For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at