TV suicide programme 'disturbing and unnecessary' says Catholic Union

 "It's quite inappropriate to turn someone's death into a reality TV spectacle. This is part of a well funded and concerted campaign to try to undermine our present law" says Lord Alton of Liverpool, Vice-President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, commenting on Sky TV·s screening of "Dying with Dignitas: Right to Die', which shows the death of Craig Ewert by assisted suicide in a Swiss euthanasia centre.

"The BMA and Royal Colleges oppose euthanasia - and do so for good reasons," said Lord Alton. "Society at large needs to reflect soberly on those questions. We should be wary of being manipulated. We don·t need spectacles and we don't need doctors to kill us in order to die with dignity". Lord Alton, who is a patron of three hospices for the dying, has repeatedly called for the NHS to provide protection for the vulnerable terminally ill, the preservation of the doctor-patient relationship and universal palliative health care and hospice provision to ensure that no one dies with unnecessary suffering. Edward Leigh MP, a Vice-President of the Catholic Union, expressed deep sympathy and added "Whilst Craig Ewert's suffering was clearly extremely distressing to him and his family, we believe that he ought not to have suffered in this way. Recent studies of those suffering from motor neurone disease show that, due to advances in palliative care, the overwhelming majority die peacefully. Sadly, the televising of this assisted suicide will be a powerfully emotive persuader towards the normalisation of euthanasia as the default option for conditions of this kind. It is a rubicon that could never have been crossed without the abandonment of the fundamental Judaeo- Christian principles that have hitherto underpinned our society's treatment of these issues. This is a chilling victory for what Pope John Paul II called the "culture of death·."

Mr James Bogle, barrister and Vice-Chairman of the Catholic Union, commented, "What is concerning is the evident bias toward assisted suicide that is being shown by some very ill-informed parts of the media. I agree with Phil Willis, the LibDem MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, where Mr Ewert lived, who has rightly and responsibly challenged the morality of making a documentary "actually in some ways glorifying suicide·".

Some doctors consider that the programme is likely to be disturbing for those who are suffering from degenerative neurological diseases such as motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis, and the vulnerable elderly, most of whom are not considering assisted suicide. Evidence from the US state of Oregon presented to the Lord Joffe committee included comment by the nursing association that in their experience the majority of patients requesting assisted suicide were suffering from depression.

Many feel that these documentaries are part of a campaign to make assisted suicide legal in the UK. Now that the Government's End of Life Strategy has been made available for public consultation, the Catholic Union has urged members to contribute to the public debate and to fight for "due impartiality· in media presentation of end of life issues.

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