ITV’s Coronation Street is to explore the issue of assisted suicide through a storyline involving a transsexual character who is worried about regressing to his male self in the final stages of his life.
This comes as Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is set to be debated in the House of Lords.
The transsexual man called Hayley has been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in the programme, and as his condition worsens, Hayley decides assisted suicide is the best option despite misgivings from his husband Roy Cropper.
A spokesman for Care Not Killing warned that while soaps should not avoid controversial subject matters, it was “important that this issue is presented in a sensitive and careful way”.
He added: “Irresponsible portrayal of the subject is the 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 burden on others.”
Programme producer Stuart Blackburn said: “She is concerned she could regress to being Harold, she’s already had one such nightmare. She wants to die in peace with clarity of thought, she wants to die as Hayley – the identity she has spent her whole life fighting for.”
He added: “This is a very sensitive issue and we will be exploring the effects of her decision on husband Roy who has a huge emotional and moral dilemma over her choice to die this way.”
Sarah Wootton, head of pro-euthanasia campaign group Dignity in Dying, said they believe it will “highlight the effects that the current out-of-date law has on terminally ill people and their families”.
In July this year, an expert end-of-life think tank said Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide Bill failed the public safety test and is “not fit for purpose”.
The Living and Dying Well group published a comprehensive report which said the new Bill contains no safeguards for assessing assisted suicide requests.
Lord Falconer’s “Assisted Dying” Bill would allow doctors to give lethal drugs to patients who are believed to have less than six months to live.