Thursday 22 January 2009

BBC licence fees used to fund anti-life propaganda again

Alison Davis, who heads SPUC's disability division, contacted me to tell me about what looks like another very one-sided BBC drama focusing on assisted suicide.

I have frequently commented on BBC bias on life issues. Licence-fees are effectively being used to fund anti-life propaganda, worldwide.

Even before the showing of the feature length drama "A short stay in Switzerland" (BBC1 9pm Sunday 25 January), its leading actress Julie Walters, is quoted as being "set to win awards" for it.

In the drama Ms. Walters plays Anne Turner, a doctor and mother of three adult children who developed Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), just shortly after her husband died of a similar condition. While he died naturally, Dr. Turner, with the "support" of her children, decided to go to the well-known "Dignitas" centre in Zurich, founded by Dr. Ludwig Minelli in order to die by "assisted suicide." She reportedly wanted to go to the clinic while she was still well enough to travel, because "assisted suicide" is illegal in Britain. She particularly wanted to make a stand in favour of the Mental Capacity bill which would legalise death by dehydration and starvation for some vulnerable patients (now the Mental Capacity Act 2005).

PSP involves degeneration of nerve endings, affecting balance, mobility, vision and inability to swallow. Some people with the condition often become unable to walk, feed themselves or communicate easily with others. However, while these symptoms may well be very distressing, not all those with PSP suffer them all, and hospice treatment whether as an in- or out-patient can help both those with the condition and their familes to live well until they die naturally. Average life expectancy from diagnosis is about seven years.

While Ms Walters maintains that she simply wanted the issues aired, her bias is made clear by her comments. She says "Anne was an intelligent, informed and articulate woman. It was a courageous act."

While every individual's response to a disabling condition will be different, Ms. Walters' dubbing of Dr. Turner's response as "courageous" ignores the wonderfully positive response of the actor, comedian and classical pianist Dudley Moore (pictured) who lived with PSP for eight years, during which he raised $100,000 for research into PSP. He was diagnosed in 1999, and died naturally of pneumonia, a common complication of PSP on 27th March 2002. His truly courageous stance receives no mention in the trailers for this film. It looks set to be the viewer's loss to be given only a one-sided look at what possible responses are available for those who experience disabling conditions and their families.

You may like to watch the programme. If you conclude that it's another example of BBC anti-life propaganda, write to your MP and ask him or her to take up your concerns with Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general.