BBC drama may have prompted MS suicide

Watching a BBC drama about an assisted suicide may have been the ‘last straw’ for a depressed multiple sclerosis sufferer who committed suicide, an inquest heard.

Angela Harrison, a mother of two sons aged eleven and 13, took an overdose of Paracetamol tablets and other drugs after watching the controversial programme, A Short Stay in Switzerland.

An inquest at Huntingdon Law Courts heard how she had suffered with depression brought on by her debilitating illness, and had already spoken of ending her life.

Her brother, Frank Harrison, said: “She had decided a long time ago that she would take her own life when the time came.

“I think what brought it on that night was watching that Julie Walters play on television.”

A Short Stay in Switzerland featured actress Julie Walters portraying retired doctor Anne Turner, who travelled to Switzerland in 2006 to end her life at the Dignitas facility there.

Dr Turner, who suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a degenerative condition, allowed her death to be used as part of a campaign to legalise assisted suicide in the UK.

She has been described by Mrs Walters as “an intelligent, informed and articulate woman. It was a courageous act.”

The BBC was criticized for showing the drama, particularly as it coincided with the introduction of the Coroners and Justice Bill which gives Parliament the opportunity to change the current law on assisted suicide.

The coroner in Angela Harrison’s case recorded a verdict of suicide.

“She took her own life when her experience of a rapidly deteriorating and disabling condition reached an intolerable stage,” he said.

The BBC said last night: “We are very sorry to hear about this tragic news.

“But we do not feel it is appropriate to comment on what is a private matter, except to state that the programme dealt with an important topic responsibly and with sensitivity, and was prepared with the benefit of appropriate professional advice.”

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