Sir Bruce Forsyth has spoken out in favour of assisted suicide but the Alzheimer’s Society and a medical ethics expert say the current law should remain unchanged.
Sir Bruce, 87, perhaps best known for presenting TV game shows, said that his views on the end of life were his “own personal opinion”.
He commented that it can “be very wrong” for some people, but said he would like assistance to ‘speed up’ the end of his life if he was “on the way out”.
Sir Bruce’s comments came in relation to his first wife who suffered from dementia.
However, the Alzheimer’s Society said it was not calling for a change in the law on assisted suicide or euthanasia.
“We believe that people with dementia are entitled to good end of the life care”, the charity said, adding: “Improving staff training and awareness is vital to make people’s final days as comfortable as possible.”
Christian Medical Fellowship CEO Dr Peter Saunders spoke out against changing the law, saying: “The real heart of a society is revealed in the way it treats vulnerable people – especially the elderly, sick or disabled.
“Does it make sacrifices for vulnerable people or does it choose rather to sacrifice them?”
Sir Bruce’s first wife Penny Calvert died last year, after a long battle with dementia, and he told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s a terrible illness, awful to see and awful for everyone close to the person suffering.”
He added: “If I had Alzheimer’s or dementia I would do something about it. The law should be changed and if people want to die with a bit of dignity left they should be able to do so.”
In a blog response to the remarks, Dr Saunders described Sir Bruce’s assertion as “misguided” and “very dangerous”.
“The overwhelming majority of people with dementia do not actually want to die.
“But one can see that, were the law to change, there would be many families struggling to make ends meet and health administrators trying to balance the books in a cash-strapped NHS who would in fact have a financial interest in their deaths.”
“This is why it is so important that the current law, which makes both euthanasia and assisted suicide illegal, does not change”, he said.
Last year Lord Falconer sought to introduce an assisted suicide Bill in the Westminster Parliament, while Patrick Harvie MSP is supporting a Bill in the Scottish Parliament which would also legalise the practice.
David Cameron has spoken against assisted suicide because of his concerns about people feeling “unfairly pressurised” while Nick Clegg has also expressed opposition to the practice being legalised.