Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Short Stay in Switzerland

I've just watched A SHORT STAY IN SWITZERLAND, which detailed the illness and assisted suicide of Anne Turner. She was played, very movingly, by the wonderful Julie Walters. A drama like this is incredibly difficult to make. The issue is so sensitive, with dogmatic views held by both sides of the debate, that the programme is bound to generate a lot of heated argument. Was it right of the BBC to commission the programme? Did it explore the issue properly and without bias? Was it over emotional, tugging too much on the heartstrings? You will all have your own views.

The BBC has come under fire for attempting to influence a debate which takes place tomorrow in the House of Commons on assisted suicide. I see absolutely nothing wrong in screening this programme the day before the debate. I suspect it is coincidence anyway, as programmes like this are usually scheduled far in advance of parliamentary timetables.

I don't think anyone has a right to judge either Anne Turner or her family. I'd like to think I would know the right thing to do in similar circumstances. I think that's all I will say about this. Writing on this subject while feeling emotionally exhausted by watching Julie Walters' performance is perhaps not the best time to be reflective.

15 comments:

Simon said...

Irrespective of what is going on in Parliament tomorrow, this was an important and deeply moving work of television drama.

Julie Walters should win as many acting awards as can possibly be given for an incredible piece of work.

Will it change some minds? I hope so.

Sue said...

How depressing! I'm depressed enough with this government without watching suicidal stuff...

Wrinkled Weasel said...

In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Let's add, mercy.

Cato said...

I'm a great believer in a person's right to choose.

It's high time some of those buffoons in the asylum recognised it too.

A staggeringly emotional drama and superbly played by Walters.

Jogger said...

It was an incredibly moving drama and a real challenge to what we do.

Blackacre said...

And this is the sort of drama that the Tories who are keen to kill off the licence fee will lose in favour of more celeb-fests. The BBC is not perfect but lets try to keep it.

Shaun said...

I have MS and may, if my disease takes that course and should medical/technological fixes not come through, end up alive but immobilised, possibly blind and subject to broadly untreatable neuropathic pain. Under those circumstances I would wish to end my life but the disease itself won't kill me, much as I may wish it would.

Why should my right to comit suicide be linked to my physical capacity to do so? How does this present situation not discriminate against the disabled while hypocritically claiming to 'protect' them?

I believe that the law in the UK should be changed to allow for assisted suicide with adequate safeguards - you could, for example, go to court in advance of the act to let a jury decide whether you should or should not be allowed to proceed - which could easily prevent the spectre of abuse that those who want me to suffer wave around like a straw man. The present situation is intolerable as were my wife to travel with me to Switzerland, she may be liable to prosecution at the discretion of a politician who won't disclose their criteria for prosecution.

Desperate Dan said...

The BBC, incapable of maintaining partiality, was trying to influence public and political opinion by broadcasting this drama so I didn't watch it.

Its a bit like when they failed to maintain partiality by broadcasting three weeks full of mawkish holocaust tripe to coincide with the destruction of Gaza.

bookseller said...

I have no doubt that it was exceptional television, and the usual brilliant and sympathetic performance was delivered by Julie Walters; but there is my problem.

The BBC are starting to take sides in a moral debate, and not all of us hold the views of some of your contributors, or even hold strong views at all. Similar story lines have already been run (again with great sympathy and tact) by the BBC in Holby City and Casualty, its flagship medical dramas.

I will be a lot more comfortable when there are dramas showing the alternative sides to this debate, with equally skilled and sympathetic actors. I hope they can show us supportive families, the impact of severe depression on decision-making, a stoic belief in a right to life and selfish grasping relatives.
I am no fanatical 'right-to-lifer', but I am getting more worried that the BBC are taking sides.

Desperate Dan said...

The BBC's cackhanded attempts to influence public opinion is nothing new. When news of AIDS first broke the BBC produced first a drama and then a serial designed to illustrate that the people most likely to contract and spread AIDS were middle aged married women.

Desperate Dan said...

Even if the programme had been scheduled well in advance, as you suggest, it would have been perfectly possible to reschedule it for another time.

Georgie said...

Let's not forget the wider implications to Dr Turner's heartbreaking choice for all concerned.

What about the dangers some terminally ill and vulnerable people may face who may be at the mercy of unscrupulous 'carers' who may seek to pressure them to hasten their death for their own gain?

Nobody knows how they will die, however we surely must all act responsibly? Dr Turner's life seemed a lot better than many people even those starving to death in poor countries who face their own untimely, unfortunate deaths with courage and do not turn to suicide.

Georgie said...

I forgot to add, Dr Turner feared a slow, painful death with the loss of a good quality of life. If she was able to have taken the equally brave choice to continue living,with good NHS care, could she not have had a better more peaceful death, without involving her children with her decision to commit suicide?

BeadieJay said...

Desperate Dan, I find your comments about "mawkish holocaust tripe" to be offensive.

Have you thought that the reason for so many programmes about the Holocaust might have something to do with the fact that tomorrow is International Holocaust Remembrance Day?

That said, I thought this drama was excellent - if Julie Walters doesn't get an award for this, I'll eat Desperate Dan's hat!!

Shaun said...

People always talk about people with terminal diseases, which is fine. But understand my situation where I'd go from being active and working to being trapped, immobile, blind and in pain but likely to live as long as anyone else. Who has the guts to tell me why I should have to endure that?