John Humphrys’ biased debate over euthanasia

The BBC’s Today Programme invited controversial euthanasia campaigner known as Dr Death to ‘debate’ the issue of assisted suicide with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The result was effectively a seven-minute trailer for the euthanasia cause with the two sides arguing about the best way to help people kill themselves.

The Today Programme is the BBC’s flagship current affairs radio show. The ‘debate’ was broadcast this morning at 08:17.

Listen to the euthanasia ‘debate’on the Today Programme

Dr Nitschke, nicknamed Dr Death, successfully campaigned in Australia’s Northern Territory to legalise euthanasia there in the 1990s. The law was overturned by the federal government nine months later.

Before the law was overturned, he helped four people end their lives using his Deliverance Machine. The machine now sits in the British Science Museum.

It consists of a computer that asks patients a series of questions. After they press a “yes” button three times, the computer administers a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Dr Nitschke hit British headlines this week after Bournemouth council intervened to stop his do-it-yourself suicide workshop taking place in one of its buildings.

According to right-to-die organisation Exit International UK, Dr Nitschke chose to speak in Bournemouth because “there are lots of older people there”.

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) – which decided to rename itself ‘Dignity in Dying’ in 2006 – is opposed to Dr Nitschke’s methods but actively campaigns for assisted suicide to be made legal in Britain.

In August the group withdrew a trademark application for its new name after a legal challenge was mounted by the Christian Medical Fellowship, Alert and the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council.

It means pro-life groups are free to use the phrase “dignity in dying” in a way that expresses the love and care people deserve at the end of life. The VES has kept its own stylised trademark – “dignity in dying – your life your choice”.