Sir David Attenborough backs ‘problem-free’ assisted suicide

Wildlife presenter Sir David Attenborough has said he backs assisted suicide if “all the problems” of misuse could be solved.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, he said he himself would want assistance to commit suicide if he was “really having a wretched life”.

In September, MPs overwhelmingly rejected a Bill to introduce assisted suicide, with concerns being raised over supposed safeguards against abuse.

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While the comments were welcomed by a pro-assisted suicide group, Care Not Killing expressed sadness at the remarks.

Speaking to the Costing the Earth programme, Sir David remarked that the issues were “very complicated” and involved philosophical and medical questions.

Asked whether he supported assisted suicide, he told presenter Tom Heap: “I suppose I do really, but if you could solve all the problems of dealing with the misuse of such a right”.

He continued by commenting that he would want an assisted suicide if he was in control of his mind but having a terrible life.

Real dangers

A spokesman for Care Not Killing said: “I think it’s sad that such a much loved figure would make comments like that, but he has clearly recognised that there are very real dangers with changing the laws around assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

In September, when MPs debated a change in the law, Fiona Bruce argued: “We are here to protect the most vulnerable in our society, not to legislate to kill them.”

Tim Loughton MP said he opposed the legislation because of concerns about “pressures from family members or friends with their own agendas and different priorities”.

Fear of suffering

Dr Philippa Whitford MP, a former cancer surgeon, warned: “People would choose such an option for lots of reasons: the fear of being a burden, the fear of dying, and most of all the fear of suffering.”

And Mark Durkan MP said he was “not convinced by the so-called safeguards” in the Bill.

Last year a member of the House of Lords who has spinal muscular atrophy said that helping people live, rather than die, should be society’s primary concern.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton relies on a ventilator to help her breathe, and speaking in July 2014 she said that a Bill to introduce assisted suicide scared her “because, in periods of greatest difficulty, I know that I might be tempted to use it”.

“Helping people to live with dignity and purpose must surely be our priority”, she added.

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