'A CONVEYOR BELT TO DEATH' Critic of Euthanasia Labels Programme as 'Propaganda' and Says Quality of Care Is Real Issue Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Is One of the UK's Leading Opponents of Attempts to Legalise Assisted Suicide. She Gives Her Reaction to the Controversial BBC Documentary, Which Filmed a Man Dying at the Swiss Dignitas Clinic
"THE more I see of this, the more worried I get and the BBC documentary only reinforced those worries." That was the reaction of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff to the BBC's controversial documentary, Choosing to Die, in which the fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's disease, followed 71-year-old Peter Smedley in his journey to the Swiss assisted suicide clinic Dignitas. Mr Smedley, a hotelier from Guernsey, had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He was filmed taking a lethal overdose of barbiturates and the camera crew captured his final words to wife Christine as he died.
Baroness Finlay said: "There was something very worrying about watching this man who didn't have terribly advanced disease and who, quite clearly didn't have many of the things in place that you would expect to make life easier.
"His walking stick seemed to be too short; there were no handrails in his home and he hadn't been shown how to get out of a chair - there was so much missing.
"The other thing I found really worrying was that, when he was at the [Dignitas] clinic it was as if he was on a conveyor belt.
"I just felt this man was so early on in the disease and this wasn't about them going there while they were still able to travel to Switzerland - that's not what it was about."
Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die was yesterday described as "propaganda" for the campaign to legalise assisted suicide. The charity Care Not Killing went further and said the programme posed a "significant risk" to vulnerable people and warned it was "highly likely that copycat suicides will follow".
After the programme the BBC said it had received 898 complaints.
Baroness Finlay, a professor of palliative medicine, who is based at Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, was one of the main opponents of Lord Joffe's Bill to make assisted suicide legal in the UK, which was defeated in the House of Lords in 2006.
Currently up to 20 people from the UK go to the Dignitas clinic to die. But if the UK did allow assisted suicide, along the lines of the system in place in Oregon in the USA, it has been estimated more than 1,000 people could die in this way. Baroness Finlay said: "A change in the law would, for the first time in this country, legalise killing people. "When you change the law you don't just change it for a small number of very clear-minded people but you remove protection for lots of people who are very vulnerable who can easily be made to feel a burden by their families and the care system. "Public outrage shouldn't be about the Dignitas clinic but about people saying that this is a solution for when things become a bit difficult.
"The real tragedy is people who become caught up on a conveyor belt towards death and they go along with it when they didn't need to be there in the first place. …