LONDON (Reuters) - British police said on Tuesday they will investigate a BBC presenter who admitted killing a former lover who was dying from AIDS, stoking the legal and moral debate over assisted suicide.
Ray Gosling, 70, a veteran broadcaster on television and radio, said he smothered his friend with a pillow in hospital to fulfill a pact the pair had made in case the pain got too severe.
“We had this agreement. If it got like that, I would end his life. And that’s what I did,” he told the BBC. “The doctors said there’s nothing we can do and he was in terrible, terrible pain. I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead.”
Police said they only found out about the case once Gosling’s comments had been broadcast.
“We are now liaising with the BBC and will investigate the matter,” Nottinghamshire police said in a statement.
Despite repeated challenges in the courts, assisted suicide is illegal in Britain and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Dozens of terminally ill Britons have gone to die in a Swiss clinic, where assisted suicide is legal and family or friends who help them to die will not be prosecuted.
With the proportion old people growing rapidly in the United States, Japan and much of Europe, the debate over death is expected to rise up the political agenda.
Britain’s chief public prosecutor Keir Starmer issued interim guidelines last year on whether to bring charges against people who help their friends or relatives to die. He is due to publish his final guidance soon.
The campaign group Care Not Killing, which opposes assisted suicide, said it was “bizarre and highly irresponsible” for the BBC to broadcast Gosling’s comments shortly before Starmer is due to publish his guidelines.
“The present law...exists because there are people who are prepared to kill for all kinds of motives — to inherit, to be rid of an emotional or care burden and, occasionally, for what they may consider to be compassionate motives,” it said.
The BBC said it would co-operate with the police and Gosling insisted he had no regrets about what he did.
“If he was looking down on me now he would be proud,” he said. “Sometimes you have to do brave things and say.. bugger the law.”
Editing by Angus MacSwan