BBC documentary blasted for promoting assisted suicide

The BBC has been accused of breaching World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and promoting assisted suicide, after airing a controversial documentary last week.

‘How to die: Simon’s choice’, told the story of Simon Binner, a businessman who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and later travelled to a suicide facility in Switzerland.

A Bill calling for assisted suicide in England and Wales was heavily defeated in Parliament last year.


Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told Premier Christian Radio that the BBC had broken WHO media guidelines which recommend not broadcasting scenes associated with the means used to commit suicide.

He also pointed out that the BBC should not “normalise or romanticise or even sensationalise a suicide”.

Dr Saunders said: “The BBC was clearly in breach of all of this, and they do have form in this area, I think this is the sixth documentary that we’ve had in the last eight years which has really been pushing the whole idea.”


Writing in the Daily Mail Dr Max Pemberton expressed similar concerns at the potential the documentary has to influence peoples’ perception of suicide:

“What worries me is that the TV programme sanitised suicide. Simon Binner’s last moments in that tranquil Swiss clinic were a world away from the appalling truth of what it’s like for most people who take an overdose.

“And by presenting suicide in this way – so calm, so controlled, so peaceful – I worry that the BBC cannot help but promote it.”


In September last year, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons.

Following a lengthy debate, MPs voted 330 to 118 against Rob Marris’ Private Members’ Bill.

Serious concerns had been raised that legalising assisted suicide would pressurise the sick, elderly and vulnerable into ending their lives for fear of being a burden.

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