Entertainment & Arts

Sir Terry Pratchett to probe assisted suicide for BBC

Sir Terry Pratchett
Image caption Sir Terry Pratchett supports the right for people to choose assisted suicide

British author Sir Terry Pratchett is to participate in a BBC Two documentary about assisted suicide, it has been announced.

The Discworld writer will travel to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with a 71-year-old who suffers from motor neurone disease.

Sir Terry, who was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's in 2008, said he was "a firm believer in assisted death" and wanted to learn more about it.

The film will be shown in the summer.

Dignitas, the Swiss group which assists terminally ill people to end their own lives, was founded in 1998. Many people from countries where assisted suicide is illegal travel to its clinic to die.

In the UK, assisting suicide is illegal and carries a jail term of up to 14 years.

But more than 100 Britons have gone to Dignitas and no family members or friends have yet been prosecuted.

"I believe everybody possessed of a debilitating and incurable disease should be allowed to pick the hour of their death," Sir Terry said.

"And I wanted to know more about Dignitas in case I ever wanted to go there myself."

Last year, a UK inquiry into the issue of assisted dying was launched with funding from Sir Terry.

The BBC's commissioning editor for documentaries, Charlotte Moore, said: "Assisted death is an important topic of debate in the UK, and this is a chance for the BBC Two audience to follow Sir Terry as he wrestles with the difficult issues that many across Britain are also faced with."

Dr Peter Saunders, director of charity Care Not Killing, which opposes euthanasia, expressed his "concern" that the documentary would not be balanced.

Sarah Wootton, from campaign group Dignity In Dying, a group advocating the choice of assisted dying, said it would be "irresponsible not to be discussing this issue and therefore drive it further underground".

The documentary will also see the writer explore how different European countries deal with the issue.

It is not the first time assisted suicide has been addressed by a television programme.

In 2008, a Sky documentary called Right To Die? showed 59-year-old Craig Ewert, who also suffered from motor neurone disease, end his life.

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