Suicide TV - was Sky right to air the final moments of life?
Sky has come under fire for deciding to show the dying moments of Craig Ewert who suffered from motor neurone disease and decided to end his own life through the services offered by Dignitas in Switzerland.
But was Sky wrong to show the film? No. While it is proper to question and object to the public airing of this personal tragedy, it is equally proper to allow consenting participants to inform the public about the reality that surrounds the decision of a terminally ill person to end their own life.
The moral debate may rage as to whether one should be seen to condone assisted suicide but at the end of the day what society needs to come to terms with is that it has no pre-ordained right to prevent a sentient but suffering individual from using modern medical method to alleviate their suffering (even though that may be through bringing about their own death). Surely as a society we have no right to force people to suffer if such suffering can be alleviated? The thorny moral issue is whether the recognition of the right to ones own human rights of self respect, self expression and dignity extend to the decision to end ones life. This goes against the grain of much religious teaching and traditional laws that have their basis aligned with religious doctrine.
Back to the media angle and it is precisely the fact that this debate is so controversial and has not been resolved that legitimises programmes that offer insight into the conflicting and difficult issues that are at stake.
Under UK law, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit suicide are criminal offences but the law was passed decades ago and does not reflect the fact that there is a distinction between 'suicide' and a sentient decision to take control over ones own destiny and dignity.
Why Sky was right to air the programme:
The issue is topical. The participants provided consent. The programme was the first to televise the run-up to and point of death - making the whole process real. Yes, Sky was right to air the programme as it addresses fundamental issues in relation to human autonmomy and the right to the same level of dignity and protection at the end of life as exists and is legally upheld at the bginning.