A BBC film documenting the months leading up to the death of a man who took his own life in an assisted suicide in Switzerland was lauded across social networks on Wednesday, with many viewers calling for a change in the law.
'How to Die: Simon’s Choice' followed Simon Binner and his family in the year leading up to his death. The 57-year-old, who was was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in January 2015, took his own life in October at the Eternal Spirit clinic in Zurich.
Although the 'moment of the death' wasn’t aired, the documentary showed traumatic scenes in which Binner laid on a bed, a pre-recorded message telling his wife, “I really love you Debbie. We've had such a fun and laughter-filled marriage, we were really blessed to have found one another.”
He was also shown taking the life-ending drugs via a drip before a coffin was wheeled into the room.
Ahead of the show’s airing, the BBC was criticised by anti-assisted suicide group Care Not Killing, a spokesman calling the film “deeply disturbing.”
Speaking to The Independent, Alister Thompson said the documentary raised “serious concerns,” adding: “Showing scenes like that on national television risks skewing what people think about assisted suicide and sidelines the alternatives, such as hospice and palliative care.
“It gives the impression that if you’re disabled or terminally ill your life is somehow worthless and you should kill yourself,” he added. “Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in this country and the more it is normalised, the more people will think of it as a way out.”
However, the documentary garnered near-universal praise on Twitter with many calling it “important viewing.”
So moved by this show, he was such a brave man. He should have been able to die at home, not miles away from his loved ones. #simonschoice— Lauren Gill (@Gill_Laurenn) February 11, 2016
#SimonsChoice The human Dignity versus society beliefs of what is correct. Simon and family made there choice. Huge respect... and tears...— psm_oliveira (@psm_oliveira) February 11, 2016
What a heartbreaking, dignified, thought provoking & remarkable piece of television #simonschoice was.— Mark Chapman (@markchapman) February 10, 2016
The programme #simonschoice is an incredible illustration of the pros and cons of assisted suicide. Especially for those left behind.— Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes) February 10, 2016
Saddest thing I've ever watched but has definitely assured me that there is definitely a right to die #simonschoice— Harry Burt (@HarryJBurt) February 10, 2016
So sad watching this. Total respect, admiration & sadness for his wife. Wrong he had to leave the country to do this #simonschoice— Wesley Shepherd (@wesshepherd) February 10, 2016
Teetering on the edge of tears watching #simonschoice on BBC2. My gosh. So hard. So. So. Hard.— Charlene White (@CharleneWhite) February 10, 2016
Simon's wife is so strong it's breaking my heart. When he's gone, she'll be left to live. So so sad. Incredible documentary. #simonschoice— Michael Underwood (@MikeyUnderwood) February 10, 2016
Parents & I have talked about the potential need of a "trip to Zurich". Change the law. Let people die in dignity in the UK. #simonschoice— Laura (@lmaxwellbernier) February 10, 2016
It is the patronising paternalism of religious leaders, medical professionals and know-it-all politicians that denies #simonschoice.— Dave Jones (@WelshGasDoc) February 10, 2016
In the UK it remains an imprisonable crime to "aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another." Doctors are also prohibited from assisting a patient to die, though many medics can hasten death should a patient wish to die by withholding treatment.