How To Die: Simon's Choice: BBC accused of 'advertising suicide' in documentary

The show follows Simon Binner and his assisted suicide in Switzerland

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The Independent Culture

The BBC has been accused of ‘advertising suicide’ in a new documentary which follows Simon Binner and his assisted suicide in Switzerland.

How to Die: Simon’s Choice documents the 10 months preceding his assisted suicide, showing Binner and his family's emotional struggle after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in January 2015.

According to a report by the Daily Mail, the moment Binner dies will be broadcast by the BBC (Edit: The BBC has since clarified the 'moment of death' is not broadcast), as well as the moments directly after the procedure in which his body is put in a coffin.

A spokesperson for Care Not Killing, a campaign group that opposes assisted suicide, has spoken out against the documentary, calling it “deeply disturbing”.

“It raises serious concerns for us,” Alister Thompson told the paper. “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. 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.”

Binner, from Surrey, died at the age of 57 at the Eternal Spirit Foundation in Basel, Switzerland. By the time he got there, he was almost unable to talk, struggling to walk and was losing function in his hands. In the weeks prior to his death on the 19 October 2015, he had attempted to commit suicide at home.

In the UK, assisted suicide is illegal, unlike in Switzerland. Roughly one person every two weeks travels to the country to perform the procedure, which costs £7,000 and requires multiple interviews with a doctor as well as written consent from them.

The Mail also states that his widow, Debbie, had begged him not to commit that act, but concluded an assisted suicide was the “lesser of two evils”. 

A spokesperson for The BBC told The Independent: “This is a sensitive observational documentary following one family’s experience of assisted death, which explores some of the complex questions at the heart of this deeply divisive issue. 

“The film does not serve to support either argument or intend to wholly represent the debate.”

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