63-year-old author and awesome dude Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2008. Yesterday his documentary film, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, aired on BBC TWO. In the documentary, he accompanies millionaire hotel owner and motor-neurone sufferer Peter Smedley to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, where Smedley drank a cocktail of toxins and then died in his wife’s arms. Telegraph says it’s the first suicide to be broadcast on terrestrial television in the UK, but I believe Right to Die? was the first one in the UK (and Christine Chubbuck was the first in the US).
Pratchett says he received consent forms for requesting assisted suicide from Dignitas, but he hasn’t signed them yet:
He said: “The only thing stopping me [signing them] is that I have made this film and I have a bloody book to finish.” But he stressed that he was as yet still undecided whether he would eventually take his own life. He said he changed his mind “every two minutes” but added that if he did choose to die would prefer to do so in England and in the sunshine. Sir Terry, creator of the Discworld novels, was 60 when he was diagnosed with terminal condition and has since campaigned passionately for a change in the law to allow assisted suicide in Britain. He has complained that people who wish to undergo the procedure under the current system are forced to commit suicide earlier than necessary because they have to go to Switzerland before they are too ill to travel. [Telegraph]
The Dignitas clinic says 70% of people who sign the consent forms do not go through with killing themselves. And here’s something disturbing: an estimated 21% of people who commit suicide in Dignitas clinic are not terminally ill.
No jokes in this post. Terry Pratchett is awesome, my grandma has had Alzheimer’s for years, and this just makes me a sad panda.