Good afternoon, we're live once again from the
Everyman Cinema club in Hampstead. We're in a slightly bigger
cinema today. We're upstairs which is very nice. I think we should
still start though with the statutory live audience David Dimbleby
question time style round of applause. So good afternoon ladies
and gentlemen, welcome to the Everyman Cinema Club in Hampstead.
It's lovely to see you all.
Our audience have had a heavy morning here this morning. They've
seen a very heavy and moving and poignant film which is very
loosely, I think, about euthanasia. It's about other things as
well, but we'll come onto that in just a second. It's based on
a true story, this film. It's called, 'The Sea Inside'. It's
Oscar nominated. We'll find out from one of our guests in a second
which it is, I think it's best foreign language film. Yes it
is. And it's based on a true story as I say. It focuses on the
life of a man called Ramon San Pedro, a man who is paralysed
from the waist down and he spends most of his life, at least
most of his life following his illness, taking legal action that
will allow him to eventually take his own life. He's cared for
by his friends and his family. And it's a love story as well,
this film, as well as being about euthanasia I think it's about
denial of love. It's a true story. The main part of Ramon San
Pedro is played by a brilliant actor called Javier Bardem who
in preparing for this film actually spent three months in bed.
Now we've got a live audience here but also want your phonecalls
as well on this, on 0870 909 973.
And as I always say whenever we're at the Everyman Cinema Club
here in Hampstead you don't have to have seen the movie to take
part here this afternoon because it's the themes in the film
that we'll be talking about, and these themes are universal ones.
And it's a question that has been very much in the news over
the last few weeks and months. The question is, would you be
willing to help a loved one die? Would you be willing to help
a loved one die? On 0870 90 90 973.
There are many different forms of euthanasia if we start talking
about assisted suicide, decision assisted suicide, family assisted
suicide and plain euthanasia. We'll come onto the various definitions
in just a minute.
First of all I wanted to hear what the audience had to say when
we asked them that question during a sumptuous lunch just a few
moments ago. I asked everyone exactly that question. Would they
be willing to help a loved one die, and here's what they had
'The movie's brilliant.
I think, I don't believe that the government should legislate
with regard to euthanasia. Neither do I think that people in
this situation should be prosecuted. I think it should be left
up to one's individual conscience.'
'Well I think that the film definitely raised an issue where
consideration is needed by the government to look at or re-look
at euthanasia as a possibility, as an option for people if they
think they need it.'
'I think it's about time the government did look at euthanasia
and it's impact on people who want it. It's freedom of choice;
it's choice of whether or not you've got dignity, or whether
you're loosing the quality of your life. Ultimately as humans
I think we've got the right to decide whether or not we live
'I very much enjoyed the film. My views following seeing the
film are no different to those before I saw it, and that is I
really believe euthanasia should be made legal.'
'It was an amazing film, a very touching film. I wasn't happy
about seeing it, but having seen it I'm pleased I did and I have
to say that I do believe that euthanasia should be made legal.'
'It was extremely powerful and emotive. It wasn't just about
the right to die it was about love, individuals and relationships.
And regarding the question about whether, if we were to have
a law in this country, the question is where to draw the line
and potential for abuse of such legislation.'
'It was a very powerful film. Very much I was concerned about
the roles between the state and the church, the secular and the
religious, as well as all the relationships within the family
home and outside it. I felt there were parallels to be drawn
between the abortion laws and the abortion lobby. And it's something
that will go on and have a lot of discussion. It's a very difficult
thing to make one's mind up about.'
'I definitely think that there should be some sort of legislation
in respect of euthanasia. I think it's very important, therefore
I think the film's very important.'
'Well, if it doesn't win an Oscar there's no justice in the world.
I thought it was extremely well acted, beautifully poetically
written and it will definitely make an impact on how we view
That's what our audience thought of the
film that we saw this morning and of the themes within the film.
This is one of those very difficult issues. It's such a difficult
one and I've found my attitudes and my views moving in two different
directions over the last twenty-four hours. One moment I'll be
absolutely for euthanasia and think 'of course the law should
be changed and amended'. Seconds later I go completely the other
way. I think this debate is very similar to the debates we have
on capital punishment, and obviously I know they are completely
different issues, but when we talk about Capital punishment I
think one of the questions that always hangs in the air is, how
can we ever be 100% sure that a person is guilty? How can you
ever be sure if you take someone's life for a crime that they've
committed that they are 100% guilty? And similarly, I think,
with euthanasia, how can you ever be 100% sure that someone wants
to end their own life? How can you ever be sure that a person
want to end their own life?
Let introduce you to my panel this afternoon. First
of all Karen Krizovich, film critic, is here. Nice to see you
Very nice to be here.
Thank you. Next to Karen is Dr Jim McDonald. Dr Jim is, Dr McDonald
very friendly, Dr Jim. Dr McDonald is president of Signes. Could
you just tell us briefly what Signes is.
Signes is the world Catholic association for communication. I
should say I'm not a medical doctor. My forte is film and TV.
So if I have a heart attack there's nothing you can do?
Nothing I can do, I'm sorry.
Well that's no use to me whatsoever is it.
Yes I'm totally useless in that respect.
And sitting on my right is Jenny Saunders who is Public Affairs
Officer at the Voluntary Euthanasia Product. Nice to see you
Jenny. Thank you for coming along. I think it's pretty clear
what your views will probably be, but we'll come to you in just
Karen, this film it's got an Oscar nomination for
Best Foreign Language Film and probably one of the most emotive
films, I think, for quite some time.
Yes, yes it is. It's unusual for this director to actually be
taking this kind of subject matter, although he likes to deal
a lot with dark and shade as we're dealing with here. It is incredibly
emotive, and I think the main performance by Bardem is pretty
astonishing. The fact that he is a very physical actor, and in
fact he has played a wheelchair bound character before in an
Almolodvar movie, so he has had some experience with this.
But the film itself, do you think it
well obviously it's
all about euthanasia, but I know as film critics you're very
keen to look for other themes. I mean there's a couple of love
stories in here as well. This is a movie that's about denial
of love isn't it.
It is pretty much and I think obviously a lot of the characters
are compressed because he's only got two hours to work with,
but it is definitely a love story and it's a love story about
what people see in love, and when we fall in love with someone
what we want to get out of it. And I think that those are, I
mean there's so much in this movie that it's difficult to hive
them all off, but I think love and life certainly intertwined.
Let's get to the issues then, you're attitudes towards euthanasia.
Are you pro or against?
Well I'm trained as a philosopher, that's before I became a film
critic, that's what I was. And I've done some bio-medical ethics,
by no means a great deal, but I think it is important to clarify
how you feel about life and if you feel that life should be preserved
under any circumstances you're going to have a different opinion.
Personally I think if it's your life you're absolutely miserable
and nothing can change your mind and you really, really - for
whatever reason that might be - want to be out of it, I think
that that is your prerogative. That said, there are plenty of
examples where people have been injured or incapacitated or incredibly
depressed and yet by holding off a few months or a few years,
things have changed.
Dr Jim McDonald then, from Signes, tell us, you
would be in favour of life at any cost wouldn't you, I assume?
Let's first just say that I think the film was very good in terms
of exploring all the complexities of the issues. And you're right
about it being a love film. In one sense it's a film about love
at many, many different levels. The second point I'd say is that
no, I'm not in favour of life at any cost, in the sense that,
in the Catholic Church's point of view nobody says that life
has to be prolonged at any cost. Any treatment, for example,
when someone is terminally ill, treatment becomes intrusive and
unnecessary you don't keep them alive just for another few days.
My mother died of dementia. I know what it's like to be there
and see someone in a situation where you think about these things.
So it's a very personal issue and I wouldn't minimise that. I
think what I would say though is that it's important to look
at the issue of Euthanasia and all these other issues in terms
of society as well as the individual. This was a really, this
film was about one person and his particular reasons for wanting
to die, but there were broader issues about the protection of
life, about the protection of vulnerable people and all the pressures
that vulnerable people could come under to end their lives. There's
the issue that you raised about people perhaps wanting to change
their minds. So there are broader issues than just the individual
Alright we'll come onto; we'll speak to Jenny if you could just
hang on for a minute. Jenny Saunders from the Voluntary Euthanasia
Project and on 0870 90 90 973 listening wherever you are in London
this afternoon in our debate this afternoon by answering this
question. Do you think that you should have the right to end
your own life if you so chose to do? If you're incapacitated
do you think that you should have the right to decide to end
your life and would you be willing to help a loved one die. It's
assisted suicide that's what it is, would you be willing to do
that. We'll come to some of your calls and to our audience here
in just a second after our latest news.
Good afternoon. They've let us out this afternoon. They've let
me out. It's a mystery. I'm on day release, I don't know why
they decided to do this, it usually ends in trouble. However
I think we're safe on this one today. It's such an emotive issue
this and I'll be honest with you. It's one of those rare occasions
where I really don't know how I feel. One moment I'm pro Euthanasia,
the next moment I'm against. And if I'm against for any reason
it's this, it's because it's such a difficult issue, I think,
to police. I think that Euthanasia would be so difficult, I think,
to police if it was in the statute books. How can we ever be
sure that we're making the right decisions? But I'm open, I'm
open to have my mind and my opinions changed. Let's speak to
Jenny Saunders who is the Public Affairs Officer at the voluntary
Euthanasia Society, I said Project, it's society, sorry about
that Jenny. Here's on of my problems, maybe you can help me iron
some of these out. Euthanasia and assisted suicide, it's not
about the right to die is it? Assisted suicide is effectively
about the right to kill. It's effectively about one person facilitating
the death of another, isn't it?
with that. I think it's essentially about the patient's right
to choose the manner and timing of their death when they're terminally
ill and suffering unbearably. I think it's important to clarity,
actually, that the Voluntary Euthanasia Society campaigns for
patient choice whatever that may be. Be it requesting life-sustaining
treatment or if a person is terminally ill and experiencing great
suffering having the option there, and option is a very important
word, of requesting medical assistance to die.
Under which circumstances then would assisted suicide be allowed,
if we were to put a law in the statue books? Because this is
where I get slightly confused. I think that this film that we
saw this morning is so emotional, it's so much about sentimentality
and it's only when you get down to looking at the details of
how this would be workable that it starts to get confusing. In
which circumstances would euthanasia and assisted suicide be
There's currently a bill in parliament, which has been introduced
by Nelson Mandela's former lawyer, Lord Joffey, and this bill
is called the assisted dying for the terminally ill bill. Now
what this would do is it would give mentally competent terminally
ill adults who are suffering unbearably the option of requesting
medical assistance to die within careful safeguards. What's really
important to recognise here is that this isn't a philosophical
discussion. Assisted dying happens now because terminally ill
patients experience great suffering which cannot be relieved.
What we say is that it's really important to recognise the dangers
of not regulating this practise. Only a couple of weeks ago we
saw the case of a gentleman who ended his dying wife's life by
slashing her wrists. That's a terribly way to go when you're
already suffering from that kind of condition. It's also a terrible
burden to place on a husband. I don't imagine that anyone would
want that to happen.
get some views from the audience. Let's speak to Gill Gehardi
who's just in the front row here. I should tell you a little
bit about Gill. Gill, I think I'm right in saying that you're
suffering from multiple sclerosis, is that right?
Yes. Gill let's hear what you have to say about this.
I've also got Cerebral Palsy.
So you've got Cerebral Palsy and multiple sclerosis. How do you
feel, Gill, about this option? The sort of option that Jenny
was talking about just now.
Let me tell you a little bit about my story first. When I was
diagnosed with MS then I'd lived with Cerebral palsy all my life
anyway; it was a bit like being kicked in the teeth. And I was
getting less able to do the things that I'd fought for years
and years to be able to do and I did at one point decide that
my life wasn't going to be worth living.
And when was that Gill? How many years ago was that, that you
thought your life wasn't worth living?
Three years ago.
And now, today?
Now I've had counselling and I learned that my physical abilities
didn't determine what I was as a person, and now I am so against
that right you've talked about that I have been campaigning quite
And this is your organisation, Will to Live. Do you understand,
Gill, how somebody else in your situation with Multiple Sclerosis
and Cerebral Palsy might have those thoughts that you had three
years ago, that life isn't worth living, and those thought would
never go away?
Of course I do. But if you get the right level of care, if you
are able to continue making the choices that you want to make,
if I decide to come to London today I'm lucky enough to have
a husband to bring me and a carer to accompany me. Without those
I wouldn't be able to do anywhere. I am still a free agent
And you're able to do whatever I want to do
And I can do what I to do. Now I'm not saying that it's
easy to get. You have to fight tooth and nail to get what you
need, not only what you need but what you want. They will give
you the bare minimum of what is available, but to get more than
that takes a lot of fighting for. But it is possible; there is
hope at the end of the tunnel. You can carry on doing whatever
it is you want to do. I can still talk. I know one day the illness
will take that away and I already looking for an alternative
electronic thing to help me talk like Stephen Hawking has got.
There are so many things available out there
you can live a full life.
Can I just get Jenny to pick up on something that,
few of the things that you said? I think that there's a danger
Jenny, and this is one of my concerns when I'm in the against
Euthanasia camp that Gill so obviously is in, I worry that there's
a danger that we write off certain people in society, whether
it's the elderly, whether it's people in Gill's position, that
we say, well look what's happened to Gill, why on earth would
she want to carry on living. Shouldn't we always be talking about
the right to live rather than the right to die?
I think certainly we should support everyone who wants to chose
to live and there shouldn't be any negative attitudes bearing
on people to make them think that their life isn't worth living.
But it's important to say actually that had Lord Joffey's Bill
been in place that Gill wouldn't have received assistance to
end her life when she wanted to. This Bill is about terminal
illness. Gill, I imagine, wasn't terminally ill at that stage.
This Bill covers people who have only an estimated six months
remaining. What changing the law would do is by removing this
threat of life imprisonment if anybody helps someone to end their
life, no matter what the circumstance are, it would free patients
to talk to their doctors openly about their fears. And what a
change in the law would have enabled Gill to do at that time
is to go to her Doctor, to say, 'this is what I'm feeling, these
are my concerns, this is what I'm considering.' The doctor could
have actually helped Gill to then achieve some of the options
that she has now, thankfully, taken up.
The business of being terminally ill, you said it's an estimated
six months. When we start to defining terminal that's so difficult
isn't it, because we're always asking doctors to make what are
after all unreliable predictions. How do we know if someone has
six months to live, it's always difficult isn't it?
Certainly there's an element of uncertainty there, but what doctors
do say is closer you get to a patient's end of life, particularly
with something like cancer which is what affects most people
requesting to die in countries where it is legal, it becomes
much more easy to predict how long they have remaining. I think
you've also got to also consider the issue of suffering unbearably.
In the film the lawyer was shown to have a degenerative condition
and she was shown to be scared
we can't give away too many secrets about the movie. That's
what I always do. I give away the ending. That's my big mistake.
At that point she thought about it too, but actually that's a
very natural reaction when you're facing that situation. What
changing the law would do is give people the comfort of knowing
that the option is there in case it becomes too bad. It actually
is a life prolonging measure because it enables people to feel
that they don't have to take desperate action or prisipitative
action before, and quite possibly it might never happen that
they actually want to end their life.
Jenny Saunders is here from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society,
Dr Jim McDonald is from the Catholic organisation, Signes, Karen
Krisanovitch is here as well and is strangely silent. Karen,
I can't believe you're keeping quiet.
I'm listening for once in my life.
And I've got a live audience, a still alive audience who I know
will have a lot to say. You are still alive aren't you?
Jolly good. And Simon from Stanmore standing by to speak to me
on the phone in just a second as well. Lots of thoughts, lots
of views. If you've just turned this on we're live from the Everyman
Cinema Club in Hampstead talking about the new movie, 'The Sea
Inside', in which a man, a paraplegic, decides that he wants
to end his own life. We'll talk more after the latest news back
at our studios in West London.
David Prever on London's LBC.
The question for you listening wherever
you are in London is would you be willing to help a loved one
die? Do you think it's time for the government to seriously consider
this euthanasia bill which has been going though the Lords. Let's
speak to Sandra in Stanmore. Hello Sandra.
Hi, how are you.
Fine Sandra, go ahead.
I had to unfortunately watch my father die of incurable cancer.
He had lymphatic lycoma, non-Hodgkin's, and he was also nutraplenic
they made him at the end because he was chemotherapy resistant.
And he watched his father die and he wished that he had helped
him and he made me promise that we would help him, and in the
end we had to turn the machines off and he signed a no resuscitation
order. I've also got a live will, a living will, saying that
if I got involved in an accident, and I'm going to be left as
a vegetable, or I can not have quality of life to turn the machines
off. I would, put it this way I've had two dogs, I look after
and rescue animals the whole time, we don't put our animals through
it. And that lady that's got the bells palsy, I've worked with
a factor eight haemophiliac for life and the bobas working with
cerebral palsy children. If there's a will there's a way, and
that lady has that will and that way and she has the choice.
But if the choice that you're left at, that you can't speak,
you can't communicate, you can't do anything, the frustration
of my father and the injustice and the indignity. There was no
Your living will, Sandra, what does it actually say? You sort
of brushed past it. It says that if you were left in a vegetative
If the chances of my coming out of a vegetative state are 50-50
I'd rather the machine to be switched off. I'm a very active
person. I've got; I live a very full life. I try to live my life
to the best of my abilities because at the end of the day, my
father ran marathons and he; they didn't pick up his cancer until
three years after him going to the doctors constantly. I'm not
blaming the doctors; it's just very unfortunately something that
happened. He only found out that he was terminally ill because
he couldn't run his marathons any more and cancer overtook him
so quickly as to be beyond belief. It's the most horrible thing
to watch, and I think unless you've actually lost someone and
been through it, it's very difficult. And I can understand people
who say you can't take your life away, but when there is no life,
there is no quality of life, all I can pertain it to is if you
have an animal and you watch it suffer, you don't, you don't
even think, you don't even query.
Yes, but humans aren't animals, are they though?
Ah, well, the difference is that we have a voice that we can
actually say in a language that we can understand. That's the
Sandra, thank you very much. Sorry to cut you off, but I've got
a packed audience here who I know have been waiting very patiently
for over an hour to say something. So let's get some thoughts
from the audience. Hands in the air if there's something you
want to say on this. Jo, I'll come back to you in a second if
I may. The lady over there, on the left hand side. Wonderboy
Jack with the microphone is running over there now. If you could
start with your name and which part of town you're from.
My name is Ruth Jacobs, I'm
from Ricksmansworth in Herts.
I see parallels with the film with my own father. He was forty-eight
when he contracted a very uncommon skin illness. He became a
guinea pig in St Mary's Hospital in Paddington. They held it
at bay. He needed quartizone over a long period. I've checked
my facts with a medical dictionary and it just so happened that
his brother, who was a doctor, sent quartizone over to England
for his treatment. This was in 1952. Through care at home and
later full time nursing in and out of hospital my father lasted
nine years. I was married at the time and I was not at the family
house always but I know he asked my mother to smother him with
a pillow, and for very obvious reasons she had to refuse. That's
why I see, I find, parallels with this film. And if it's a case
of seeing someone go downhill who in his time has been well,
athletic and full of the joys of life, it just seems so cruel
that he cannot have his wish granted.
Ruth, thank you. I know that was very hard for you. Thank you
for telling us that story.
speak to Dr Jim McDonald here, from Signes, the Catholic organisation.
The facts are, Dr McDonald, that overwhelmingly most Britons,
do a quick show of hands in the audience, are I think in favour
of euthanasia. Let do a quick show of hands in the air in favour
of euthanasia. And against euthanasia. One, two, three, four,
five. Only five hands against euthanasia and I have to say that
three of those are Gill down at the front here who had multiple
sclerosis and cerebral palsy and her husband and helper as well.
So overwhelmingly most Britons do believe, I mean apart from
this survey we've just done here,
Britons do believe that the terminally ill should be allowed
to ask for medical help to die. The church is out of step with
public opinion then on this.
Quite often the church is out of step with public opinion. That's
not in itself an argument for anything. Most people in this country,
I think, would be in favour of Capital Punishment. I don't happen
to think that Capital Punishment is something that we ought to
support, neither does this parliament. In terms of euthanasia
its obviously now very difficult individual cases and I wouldn't
minimise any of those cases. A very close friend of mine died
very painfully and in a very difficult circumstance in the last
few months. I know what it's like to be there when someone is
going through that and I know what it's like for the family.
But I think we have to look at it in the broader context. When
the House of Lords looked at this in the mid 1990's the BMA have
looked at this, most doctors are against it, they looked at it
and they said, if you take away the protection of the law, if
you actually say that it's Ok for someone to intentionally kill
someone else, and in particular in the case of doctors, if you
actually are asking doctors to assist in suicide
Well that goes against the Hippocratic oath doesn't it
There's a huge issue there. There's a huge issue in terms of
protecting people who may be pressurised into asking for euthanasia
because they think that's what they ought to do. There are broader
concerns here about society as a whole and sometimes, and it's
difficult, and sometimes individual cases have to be set against
the common good of society, and you have to say, 'well no, we
can't change the law because in the long run, for everybody,
it is better to have a society in which people are not intentionally
killed than one in which they are.'
lets speak to Debbie Purdy who's on the line. Debbie, are you
Debbie, nice to speak to you. Now Debbie, you've got progressive
multiple sclerosis. Yes. I've got multiple sclerosis and I was
diagnosed ten years ago. I'm degenerative, chronic and progressive,
so I'm degenerating, and I don't know what decision I want to
make. What I know is I want that choice to be there. And I think
the last speaker, I respect his views, and I certainly respect
his religious convictions, but it is important that the right
of the individual is considered. That my right to make the decision
about me, not to make it about other people. And I think it's
a really serious problem when emotive words about giving someone
the right to kill someone else. That's not an issue, it's not
a question. We're asking for the right to ask the medical profession
to provide help to end our own lives. So assisted dying. We're
not asking for somebody else to make a decision to kill us. And
that is a really important difference, I think, because it's
always used very emotively. Don't give people the right to, you
know, it's legalise murder. It's not, it's me having the right
to request help. And that, being allowed to request that help
would prolong my life. At the moment because I'm loosing the
use of my fingers and hands and I'm therefore loosing the ability
to travel by myself, I'm a wheelchair user, I would have to make
the decision whether to go to Switzerland or to commit suicide
when I'm still able to do it myself, and that could be years
before I'm ready for me to make that decision. But I might never
make that decision.
But you want the right to be able to make that decision if that
is what you chose to do.
Yes, because that would allow me to enjoy my life now, and to
get the most out of every second now, without having to worry
that every new symptom means that I could loose the right, that
I could loose the ability to take my own life, and that would
mean that I would loose complete control of my destiny. And I
don't want to do that, so I have to think about that a lot. And
I don't want to. I want to think about how to live my life now
and how to enjoy it.
Debbie, thank you very much. Thank you for sharing your story.
This is London's LBC97.3 radio. We're at the Everyman Cinema
Club in Hampstead and if you've just turned on and we're right
in the middle of this we're talking about the new movie, or at
least issues that come out of the new movie, 'The Sea Inside'.
It's a Spanish film which is Oscar nominated for Best Foreign
Language film. I urge you to see if as soon as it's on release.
I'll give you the release dates in just a while. It is a great
movie and a powerful film as well. We'll talk more in just a
second about euthanasia, the right to live and the right to die.
Dr Jim McDonald from the Catholic organisation Signes is on my
panel here along with Jenny Saunders; Public Affairs Officer
at the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and film critic Karen Krizanovitch
is here as well. A packed audience sitting in front of me and
you on 0890 09730 90.
Prever live from the Everyman Cinema Club in Hampstead
Where this morning our audience watched the movie, 'The Sea Inside'
which is release on 11th of February which is when? Next week?
Next Friday. I've no idea who I am or what date it is, or anything.
11th February is 'The Sea Inside''s national release date. I
very rarely recommend films because I'm not a great film buff
and very rarely know what I'm talking about; well I'm honest
You're very honest.
This is one that I really recommend you see. Whether it will
change your mind about euthanasia and assisted suicide and the
right to die... I think it probably will because it's very sentimental
film and the main character on whom the film is based; Ramon
San Pedro is presented in a very sympathetic way.
Krizanovitch, the film critic, Karen do you want to come back?
Ah, a bulb has just blown in here and now we're sitting in semi-darkness,
which is quite interesting. It's like the spirit of the blitz.
You join us live in darkness in a cinema in Hampstead. Ah, we've
got one light up there.
Thank goodness it's a cinema or we'd all be panicking.
that bulb didn't land on anyone did it?
The sparks were nice.
The sparks were good, yeah.
One of the things is that is important about 'The Sea Inside',
and actually we were just having a little show, while you were
doing your show, saying that we had 'Vera Drake' which was talking
about an abortionist and also 'The Sea Inside', that both of
these films were really quite subtle about life, what life means,
right to life, quality of life. And one of the things that I
think is particularly poignant about 'The Sea Inside' and we
haven't touched on is the fact that the central figure here is
quite a robust figure, he's quite likeable, and yet he wants
to end his life. But the people around him are often arguing,
well not all of them, for him to maintain his life, almost because
they love him so much. And I think that this is an issue that
we perhaps feel uncomfortable about euthanasia and people wanting
to die for whatever reason that might be because we want them
with us. We want them still there. I don't want to say that's
selfish, but I think that in a way it is.
I think there's an important
point here actually. I think that what 'The Sea Inside' actually
shows is that nobody's death is a single isolated individual
act ever. It affects lots of other people, and we have to think
of the effects on other people and about how other people are
going to react to and feel about that.
In fact if we see someone who's died and they have no relatives,
no friends, anything like that we feel for them because they
seem so isolated, so alone.
Saunders, Jenny is from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, I know
you wanted to come back on a couple of things that Dr Jim McDonald
was saying a few moments ago.
I certainly did. There was one statement that Jim actually made.
He suggested that we would loose the protection of the current
law against, sort of, abuse if the law was changed to permit
medically assisted dying. And I think it's really important to
point out that actually the current law gives no protection to
vulnerable people because what we have is a situation where assisted
dying takes place regardless of the law. We hear mercy killing
case upon mercy killing case on a very frequent basis. But when
do we ever actually see the law applied. This could result in
life imprisonment, but people very rarely end up with even a
sentence in prison.
Let's get some views from the audience again. Hands up if you
have something you want to say. There's a hand up, I thought
it was an ear scratch, but it's definitely a hand up. I'm glad
to say that the lights have gone back up in here now so we're
not in complete darkness. Yes, so your name and where you're
MacNicholas, I'm from East London.
I just want to come back on that point. We should really look
at the experience of Holland where they do have this assisted
dying in place and a reporting requirement for deaths. And the
point is that only 50% of deaths are reported which means that
it leaves a large number unaccounted for. So if this were to
become more prevalent it creates a mind set where this becomes
almost a way of thinking and for people who are in distressing
situations they may go to this for an immediate recourse and
not thinking about the longer terms and the possibility that
there may be a cure for what they're suffering from and their
relatives are suffering from. And, in fact, I can actually say
in the case of multiple sclerosis and perhaps a lot of other
ailments there's a lot hope to be found in a natural cure in
glyco-nutrition, it's an emerging science at the moment. So this
gives a lot of hope and one reason why we shouldn't think in
the terms of ending life, but actually upholding life and looking
for positive maintaining family relationships as the film so
Thank you. Thank you very much. Let's take a call now. Here's
Kenny in Muswell Hill.
Hello David how are you? It's a great show mate.
Thanks Kenny. Go ahead.
Yeah, I've actually had personal experience with a member of
my family about seven years ago now it was. Daniel his name was.
He was a Swiss guy. He was diagnosed with cancer and he opted
What, you say he opted for euthanasia, what actually happened
Yeah, what actually happened was he was diagnosed with, he actually
thought he had like an abscess in his tooth, which turned out
to be a tumour. And when he realised that he was terminally ill
he contacted this organisation in Switzerland called Exit, and
they sort these sort of things out for you. And what he actually
said to them was that he was going to have an operation to try
and remove it and if it wasn't successful and the tumour came
back, the cancer returned, he'd actually like to basically end
his life. And it did actually happen. He had an operation. He
lost half of his face, his eye. And the tumour came back after
about two months with a vengeance and he contacted this organisation
and, you know, he carried out the euthanasia.
He went to Switzerland then did he?
No he was actually Swiss himself. And he had his family with
him: his wife, his stepdaughter, my wife, his mum and dad. And
this organisation actually came to his house
In Switzerland, yes. And obviously you administer it yourself.
And that was it. That was his wish. And that's what he done.
You know, he was only thirty-nine and he just didn't want to
carry on. He'd tried the operation. He'd tried chemotherapy and
all that. And he was in a terrible mess when he came out of the
operation, and it did come back, and this organisation carried
out his wish. And his wish was, you know, to end his life.
Kenny, thank you very much.
Kenny thank you. Thank you for the call. Let's just
Saunders from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, if there is such
overwhelming public opinion on this one and I know Dr Jim McDonald
was saying, well there's overwhelming public opinion that Capital
Punishment is a good idea, but that's unlikely to come back,
certainly with the current political system that we have, the
current political parties that we have. Why are there so few
countries in the world where voluntary euthanasia or assisted
suicide are part of the law? What are we talking about, The Netherlands,
Belgium, Switzerland and Oregon bizarrely?
In the United States.
One random state. Nowhere else in the world. Is it the case that
hard cases make bad law and that most legislators just aren't
willing to tackle this one head on?
I don't necessarily think it's that. I think it's perhaps a reflection
of the way that we deal with death as a subject. Very, very few
people really like to think about death or to deal with its implications.
And so it's not surprising that if we can possibly avoid thinking
about it in parliament, then that will happen. But I think you've
really got to look at developments over the last ten years because
there is very steady movement of parliaments across the world
looking at their laws and considering changes to the law. There
have been massive medical developments, which make this issue
all the more critical, and really is bringing to the fore the
fact that, along with cases like that of Diane Pretty who, I
think, really made the public think what it was to be in this
predicament, it's drawing attention to the fact that there are
people who are terminally ill who have a very short time remaining
but face the prospect of a drawn out, and in their view undignified
death, and they find that prospect scary. They find their suffering
unbearable in certain cases. And the fact is that given that
they only have a very short time remaining, they actually want
to have some control.
Jenny, I'm sorry to stop you there. We need to get the latest
news. It's coming up to three o'clock. More live from the Everyman
Cinema Club after the news. Would you be willing to help a loved
just turned on in the middle of your school run or whatever you're
doing with your Friday the question I asked an hour ago was,
do you think it's time that the government considered putting
on the statute books a form of Euthanasia, whatever that might
be, and legalising that question, 'would you be able to help
a loved one die? I still don't know if I'm any clearer in my
views after the last hour than I was when I walked in here before
two o'clock today, and I do wonder whether this is one of those
issues, like so many others that until you've walked in the shoes
of those that have to consider these impossible life questions
it's very difficult to have a view of your own.
talk to Diane who's in Northwood. Hello Diane.
Yes Diane, go ahead.
Right. My father lived in Australia, in Melbourne, and it is
law there that they can end their own lives if they want to with
medical help. And I was obviously asked to give my permission
to do this and he
This is not the law any more is Australia, is it? Sorry Diane
just to pick you up. Sorry to be so pedantic, but it was the
law, let me just check with Jenny here, but it was the law once,
it was very briefly the law.
Yes it was once the law in the northern territories.
Sorry Diane, it was very rude of me to interrupt you in the middle,
No that quite alright. And unfortunately it was at that time
and my father didn't have a terminal illness. He had an illness
that made him feel that he wanted to die, a very dis
had something wrong with his head. You know, he wasn't mentally
ill, but it was something that made him want to die. And he asked
our permission, we gave him permission, and he did. They took
him off his treatment and he died that day. And to live with
that now I find absolutely horrifying. And I
Diane, it's okay, you're doing just fine don't worry.
And I just feel it's very easy for people to say yes. They
can help such an effect, but they have to live with that consequence
afterwards. And one should think very carefully about this. I
do, I suppose, believe in euthanasia but it's not a, it really
is not an easy decision to do, to help someone to die.
Diane, thank you very much. I know that wasn't easy for you.
You sound like you're in the middle of the playground as well
which probably doesn't make it any easier for you. Diane, thank
you for your call. You know the number 0870 90 90 973.
is the problem isn't it Jenny. For every story that we hear that
is in favour of assisted suicide or euthanasia there are many
others that will come back and give an equally compelling reason
why this should never go ahead.
I would say that the vast majority of the public are supporting
a change in the law. 82% want the law changed for a reason, and
that's because many of them have stories far, far more than any
of the concerns that might cause people to oppose a change in
the law. I'm a little unclear
Can I say something at this point? I think that it's really important
that we actually don't have the debate about people's stories
But it is about people's stories. It is about stories.
Yes, yes, of course it is and I don't minimise that. But in the
end we have to make a decision as a society about how we're going
to deal with these issues. And we have to in some sense put aside
those stories and think about the long-term consequences of what
And the long term consequences are that unless the law is changed
terminally ill people will continue to be forced to contemplate
desperate measures, like suicide, like travelling overseas for
assistance to die in order to achieve some timing, or some control
over the manner of their death. The law is dangerous
And the other long-term consequence could be that if you change
the law you could actually have more people being in some way
or other pressurised into asking for death.
There has been no evidence of that coming from the countries
which have changed their law. It goes back to what I was saying
earlier that actually the current law provides no protection
to make sure that those people who are helped to die under the
current law, even thought it's against the law, have even requested
assistance to die. You regulate it, you bring it out into the
open and you make sure that first of all it's what the person
wants. You can protect against abuse because you can scrutinise
against the decisions both before and after and you can make
sure that it happens in a safe, peaceful way. Not in the way
that happened with, for example, the Blackburns' just very recently.
That story a few weeks ago. Let have some more from the audience
because we've only got a few minutes left on this. Yes Gill,
I'll come to you in a second, yes Gill I know you want to have
a few more words and I'll let you have the last say, how about
that? The lady there in row G or whatever you're row you're in
Madam. Yes, your name and wherever you're from.
Matty from Radlett. I don't understand why you feel that if this
law came into being people would be pressurised. I had a very
dear friend who like Gill had multiple sclerosis. She never wanted
to die. She lived a fantastic full life until the last year of
her life, which was horrendous. And then she said, 'I wish I
could have died when I had the power to do it'. Because her death
was horrible. And that's why I think she should have had a choice
at that time.
Thank you. Anyone else in the audience before we move onto someone
else? Hands up. Yes. Gentleman right on the other side. Wonderboy
Jack now has to run like crazy across the cinema. Yes Sir. Your
name and wherever you're from.
is Lionel Jacobs also from Rickmansworth. I'd just like to, I'm
just a little confused about the point that, is it Jennifer Saunders
It's Jenny not Jennifer.
Sorry Jenny. She talks about terminally ill, terminally ill,
terminally ill. Is she only talking about people who are terminally
ill? Or people who are in long term situation and very unhappy
about their condition? I'd like that clarified please.
The bill, which is currently in Parliament, is specific to people
with a terminal illness as oppose to an incurable illness, yes.
Would you like to see that changed though, to move onto other
illnesses, or would you be happy with that bill as it stands.
VES was set up in 1935 actually by religious ministers; doctors
and lawyers to campaign for the rights of people who are terminally,
or seriously and incurably ill. So our remit is a little broader
Okay, any more from the audience.
lets go back to you down at the front here. This is Gill Gehardi
who's from an organisation called Will to Live. And I'll recount
your story, if you didn't hear her over an hour ago. Gill has
multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. And I think I'm right
in saying and Gill three years ago felt as though she wanted
to end her life, but has since realised that every second of
her life is worth living. Gill, yes the last few words to you,
lets go to you on this.
In both Holland and Switzerland the guidelines that were set
up in the parliament have been stretched every which way. They
both started looking at terminally ill people and in fact in
the Switzerland law said that they could only let people die
who had two weeks to live. Now we all know that that has gone
totally out of the window. They will let anybody die. The couple
that went out there from Leighton Buzzard had manic depression
and asked, but they were allowed to die.
Gill let me just finish because I'm running bit out of time.
But picking up on what you say and just putting it back to Jenny.
But this idea that if one law is passed then that law will be
changed and then the next law will be changed and we'll end up
with a situation where we have a price tag, almost like a mark
down on human life. That human life suddenly has all sorts of
different values. That's one of my big concerns.
I have to clarify something that Gill said there, because what
she said in relation to Switzerland isn't actually correct. Swiss
law is actually a loophole in the law which says it's actually
not a crime to assist a suicide providing that one is not motivated
by selfish reasons. That is not legislation as laid down by parliament.
There are no guidelines that they've put in place. And that law's
actually been in place for a hundred years without any evidence
of abuse. It certainly never began with a two-week premise. What
we actually feel is that the Swiss option is not a desirable
option for people travelling out there from the UK. We're concerned
about the lack of regulation out there. We're concerned about
the lack of guidelines. That is why it is so important to actually
change the law in this country to put in place a proper set of
regulations to protect both the people who want assistance to
die, and also people who could receive better support in other
Thank you Jenny Saunders who's Public
Gill I've run out
of time, but we will talk about it again so Gill you are welcome
to come back on the programme any. Thank you Gill Gerhardi who's
from Will to Live, Jenny Saunders from the Voluntary Euthanasia
Society, Dr Jim McDonald from the Catholic organisation Signes
and Karen Krizanovitch our film critic as well. Look out for
this movie and you can carry on this discussion I'm sure other
places on this radio station, as we will do in the following
weeks. It's called 'The Sea Inside' and it's out on the 11th
February and its Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.
I'm going to come onto other pressing matters as well after the
travel news. I'm live at the Everyman Cinema in London.