No Laughing Matter


In May 2011 the late great pro-life campaigner Phyllis Bowman wrote about the BBC bias in favour of assisted suicide. She noted that in the past three years, at least five programmes promoting euthanasia had been broadcast which is unacceptable coming from a broadcaster who is supposed to remain neutral on ethical and political matters given that they are funded by public money.

According to this report, the BBC is now producing a six-part ‘black comedy’ called Way to Go, about three friends who set up an assisted suicide business to pay off gambling debts.

Zai Bennett, controller of BBC Three, said that Bob Kushell’s, the screenwriter’s scripts, “are in turn dark, poignant, absurd, moving and brilliant. But mostly they are very, very funny. I’m thrilled that Way to Go is coming to BBC Three.”

I wonder whether those suffering from terminal illnesses, or their relatives will find this quite so amusing? I wonder how the sick, disabled, elderly and vulnerable will react to this normalisation of euthanasia? Still at least the programme-makers are reflecting that there is indeed money to be made from the promotion and selling of suicide.

What next? Larks and japes from inside an abortion clinic? John Paul II’s ‘culture of death’ is evermore prophetic.

Here’s a link to the BBC’s complaints site. Isn’t Chris Patten supposed to be a Catholic?

12 thoughts on “No Laughing Matter

  1. BBC3 Controller Zai Bennett’s mission statement: “The channel needs to be disciplined about focusing on the young – its centre of gravity will be 16-34 year-olds: people who are young in spirit and mindset.”
    This is how the young will be brainwashed into believing that the lives of the elderly and terminally ill are not worth a candle.

  2. I must have lost my sense of humour. Maybe it is because this summer we saw an elderly relative die of thirst over a 5 day period after being put on an ‘end of life’ plan. This was with next of kin consent so we were unable to do anything. Struggling to think where the joke would come from.

  3. I must confess that the subject matter of this program does not fill me with delight, but I think it is rather an overstatement to say the BBC has a bias in favour of euthanasia. Perhaps there is a bias on the part of some of our more reactionary souls to see anything that vaguely resembles giving a balanced view on a topic (i.e. promoting the pro- as well as the negative arguments) as a bias. The BBC has just shown an excellent series on growing older (; it has done much to improve the lot of people in residential and nursing care, with its Panorama investigations into institutional care and recently presented a program questioning the medical labelling of people as in a ‘persistent vegetative state’.

    It is curious to say the least that so much emphasis is placed on attacking the BBC, yet little – in the moaning and whining world of the internet blogging sphere – of the good the BBC does (e.g. the excellent ‘Ethics’ breakdown on euthanasia – which actually makes more points from a pro-life stance than the reverse!

    Of course the real problem – something few are willing to admit (particularly your Daily Mail brand of whinger) – is that we the public want others to fulfil the roles that once fell to the family. A good portion of my own work (and that of the very good doctors and nurses that make up the community team I work in) is giving family members the support and skills to enable someone to die in their own home – with much of the care coming from the family where possible. The state and various institutions (the BBC?) have become the focus of for what is a failing of society as a whole.

    Perhaps, if instead of writing ‘Disgusted of Anytown’ letters here and there, people rolled up their sleeves and made the lot of those in residential and nursing homes or their elderly or disabled neighbour a little better (which I do, by the way…) life for the elderly and disabled might be a more appealing. From 1982 to 1997 I worked in residential and nursing care homes (dementia and (as manager) working with younger adults with profound disabilities) and volunteers were few and far between – similarly church involvement was pretty slim too (indeed non-existent in some homes – despite the best efforts of management to foster links with churches). But the current trend is to blame others for our own failings as a society… It is always someone else’s fault, when the reality is probably a rather more uncomfortable. But the bony finger of accusation has always been preferable to the more challenging act of holding up a mirror… It is ironic that many decry the ‘nanny state’ yet want the state and its agencies to do all the nasty jobs they don’t want to do and blame it for lacking in an integrity few themselves possess.

    @allotmentgirl: I am very sorry to hear of the passing of your relative, but great care is needed when presuming because someone doesn’t drink in the days prior to death, that they are being denied liquid. I presume the care plan you are referring to is the Liverpool Care Pathway – of which the Daily Mail (that bastion of fair and informative reporting… I think not!) seems to have decided to make much of at present.

    People who are dying, don’t eat or drink (often for several days, even weeks, when it comes to food) in the days before death – and forcing liquid into them – particularly by mouth, often results in pulmonary aspiration (fluid spilling into the lungs) which in turn causes distress to the patient (because they usually don’t have the strength to cough it up) and gives rise to infections etc. Setting up IV fluids can be painful and distressing to the patient (and can only be done in a hospital or hospice) – and the if the person is in the final days of life, swamping a body with fluid when organs aren’t always able to cope with it (we tend to die bit by bit and the kidneys often begin to fail long before the heart gives out) can cause more serious complications (oedema etc.).

    I have worked in palliative care for over ten years – and after a break to complete a PhD, I have just returned to a teaching and counselling/social work role in a palliative care team. I have worked with many people when they are dying and I have been with several people when they have died and in the main, the Liverpool Care Pathway is an excellent means of providing care for an individual in her or his final days of life. The problem is when it has been used by professionals (particularly in general hospital wards) who do not possess the expertise to decide when the pathway is necessary and to re-evaluate the plan daily – it is not unusual for people to be put on the pathway and be taken off it if they show signs of rallying.

    It is unfortunate death as been professionalised and privatised. Too few people these days have actually seen someone die, if they did, they would understand that for the vast majority of people in the process of dying, food and water are the least of their concerns.

    1. Thank you for your compassionate words. They are very helpful. Unfortunately in our case the doctor did say our relative needed to be put on a drip. The home refused to provide it but gave the next of kin the option of paying for it, which is when the arguing began. All the children of this person could afford it. No one was going to pay if the others didn’t. In the middle of this the doctor suggested an end of life plan, which was leaped on as it wouldn’t cost anyone a penny. So this wasn’t a case of working with the body as it dies, I’m afraid. We found the funeral an interesting experience!

      My husband, in his work has sat with families at the side of loved ones who are dying. For all the families who are desperate for good care and dignity in death, there are others who are happy to hurry things along. Or those who just can’t get along enough to make a loving decision. Just our luck to be lumbered with a family who isn’t of the first kind. It brought home to us the vulnerability of those who are dying in a very forceful way. Going with what is happening physically is vital and so is allowing things to take their natural course and not rushing it through because it is convenient.

      I admire anyone who works in this field. Even more so now.

  4. @allotmentgirl – I forget to mention, in my rambling comment, that if you are unhappy with the way your relative died, you should be able to (if the person died in a hospice or was known to a palliative care team) meet with someone in the team or hospice and discuss your concerns. Some hospitals offer this service too. In the palliative team where I work (and at the hospice I worked before my present role) we regularly meet with family members to answer questions on the manner of the death (and I in particular continue meeting up with near relatives/partners/friends of someone who has died for several months, if necessary).

    It is not uncommon to feel anger or antipathy towards certain people or agencies following a death and sometimes just being able to say what you feel and voice your concerns regarding the manner of the death can be very helpful. And is also informs professional practice, in my own team, we regularly discuss issues and concerns raised by relatives and seek to change our service and practices where necessary.

  5. Cannot believe the bbc are making the subject of suicide a ‘comedy’. Sick, insensitive and utterly distasteful. Will this encourage another ‘suicide spree’ like the one in Wales a few years back? What the hell are the bbc thinking of even commissioning such an awful concept of what is regarded as something to laugh at? Im utterly disgusted. Shame on you bbc!

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