A paralysed character on Emmerdale is set to ask for help to kill himself in a controversial new assisted suicide storyline.
The contentious plot is likely to fuel fresh debates over the issue of assisted suicide and critics have accused the soap, which is watched by eight million people, of chasing ratings with the sensational plot.
The storyline may also concern disability rights campaigners who have previously hit out at the push for assisted suicide saying: “We want help to live – not help to die”.
The Emmerdale storyline centres on a character known as Jackson Walsh, played by 22-year-old actor Mark Silcock, who was paralysed in a car accident on the show last year.
Jackson will ask his boyfriend and mother to help him commit suicide, and the pair will help him by crushing lethal tablets into a drink.
David Turtle, spokesman for Mediawatch-UK, said: “Emmerdale has been trying to push the boundaries for some time just to boost ratings. It’s a soap, not a serious discussion about a serious topic.”
And Alistair Thompson, from the Care Not Killing alliance, said he hopes this is not being done “to chase ratings.”
An Emmerdale insider, speaking to a popular newspaper, said: “Jackson will start discussing plans to end his life in the next few weeks.
“His resolve to see it through will strengthen, which will lead to many rows and emotional scenes.”
A spokesman for the show has refused to either confirm or deny the plot.
In 2000 the BBC’s EastEnders character Ethel Skinner took morphine pills, aided by friend Dot Cotton.
Last year the BBC came under fire from MPs after airing two programmes heavily supporting assisted suicide ahead of the publication of assisted suicide guidelines from the DPP.
And Lord Carlile of the Care Not Killing alliance said the BBC was waging an “incredibly zealous” campaign for assisted suicide.
But the BBC claimed the airing of two assisted suicide programmes on the same night was “pure coincidence”.