The BBC has been accused of being a ‘cheerleader for assisted suicide,’ after promoting the issue in the popular TV soap EastEnders
Editor’s note. This appeared in Scottish Catholic Observer.
In an episode that aired last week, and was watched by seven million people, long-standing character Peggy Mitchell, played by Barbara Windsor, took a fatal overdose of medication after learning that she had terminal cancer.
Pro-life campaign groups said it was just the latest example of a BBC programme that sympathetically portrayed ill people wanting to end their own life. Assisted suicide is illegal in this country, resoundingly rejected by the last Scottish Parliament, but Dignity in Dying—formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society—immediately used the storyline to call for the law on assisted suicide to be relaxed. A statement from the pro-life organisation Care Not Killing (CNK), however, said it was ‘extremely disappointing to learn that yet again the BBC is acting as the cheerleader for assisted suicide and suicide.’
CNK highlighted that the EastEnders episode was the seventh pro-assisted suicide programme aired by the BBC in recent years, adding that ‘the alternatives—quality palliative and hospice care along with home care—continue to be ignored.’
“It is depressing that yet again the BBC has missed an opportunity to share with the nation the work of the army of volunteers, doctors and other health care professionals who support the overwhelming majority of the half million people who die every year in this country,” the group said.
A BBC spokesperson said that ‘EastEnders has a rich history of tackling difficult social issues and Peggy’s story is one of these.’
“We have worked closely with leading medical experts and various charities, including the Samaritans, to ensure that this storyline is portrayed as sensitively and responsibly as possible,” the spokesperson added. “At no point do we glamourise or romanticise the issue of suicide, in fact we have taken great care to show the audience not only Peggy’s perspective but the many different views of those around her.”
CNK said that the BBC’s continual promotion of suicide as a solution to terminal illness was concerning.
“Terminal illness and suicide are serious issues that warrant measured and informed debate,” the group said. “We welcome the fact that that the programme makers appear to have sought advice from the Samaritans, but this should not obscure the simple fact that this is the seventh pro-killing programme which promotes assisted suicide and euthanasia, while the alternatives, quality palliative and hospice care along with home care continue to be ignored.”
In his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, released earlier this year, Pope Francis again stresses the Church’s opposition to any unnatural end to life.
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide,” he writes. “The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members.”