ITV is due to show the assisted suicide of a male-to-female transsexual on the soap Coronation Street next week, but a pro-life group has warned that it may cause ‘copycat’ deaths.
The controversial storyline, which began last September, is set to come to its conclusion next Monday when character Hayley Cropper takes a cocktail of drugs to end his life after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Alistair Thompson, a spokesman for campaign group Care Not Killing, said there is a “danger” that such storylines “gain widespread publicity” and “normalise suicide”, sparking a “spate of copycat deaths from people in a similar plight”.
“What the soap should have done is show how people can access good palliative care”, he said.
The actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley Cropper, is a member of the Humanist Association and supports assisted suicide.
“It’s not hard to be in favour of it, people whose minds are extremely keen and alert but whose bodies have gone.
“I wouldn’t want to live in that pain and anguish or see my family and friends go through it. I’ve always really understood Hayley’s decision”, she said.
Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, previously warned that the soap must present the assisted suicide in a sensitive way.
He wrote on his blog: “Irresponsible portrayal of suicide risks being a recipe for elder abuse and a threat to vulnerable people, many of whom already feel under pressure at a time of austerity and who are worried about being a financial or emotional burden on others.”
The storyline’s conclusion comes after the UK Supreme Court last month considered a case which involved people who want the law to change to allow doctors to assist in suicides.
In Scotland, MSP Margo MacDonald has put forward a new Bill to legalise assisted suicide which opponents argue is “unnecessary, unethical and dangerous”.
Assisted suicide is illegal in England and Wales and under the 1961 Suicide Act offenders face 14 years in prison.
The leader of disability charity Scope recently resigned her membership of Amnesty International after it distributed pro-assisted suicide leaflets.
Alice Maynard said the inclusion of Dignity in Dying leaflets was “wholly inappropriate” and that under proposals to legalise assisted suicide, “my life would be in much greater jeopardy than it is at the moment”.