Britain's Sky TV criticized for assisted death film

Wed Dec 10, 2008 9:01am EST
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Sky television was criticized on Wednesday for plans to screen the final moments of a terminally-ill man who chose to commit suicide.

The film of 59-year-old Craig Ewert's death in 2006 in a clinic in Switzerland is part of a Right to Die documentary made by Canadian filmmaker John Zaritsky and the first time British television has shown someone committing assisted suicide.

"If I don't go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer, to inflict suffering on my family, and then die," Ewert says in the film, parts of which were shown on Sky News.

Sky was due to broadcast the full documentary at 2100 GMT.

With his wife Mary at his side, Ewert, who was partially paralyzed by motor-neurone disease, is shown at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Zurich drinking a mixture of sedatives and turning off his own ventilator.

Anti-euthanasia campaigners said the broadcast was irresponsible "euthanasia voyeurism" which would create a false impression of a growing demand for assisted suicide in Britain.

"This will only intensify the pressure felt by such people, whether real or imagined, to contemplate taking their lives for fear of being a burden upon loved ones, carers or a society that is short of resources," said campaign group Care Not Killing, an alliance of around 50 concerned organizations.

Assisted suicide has been allowed in Switzerland since the 1940s if performed by a non-physician who has no vested interest in the death. Both Dignitas, and another suicide clinic there called Exit, use lethal drugs prescribed by a physician to end the lives of those who seek their help.   Continued...