Author Pratchett appeals for assisted-suicide legislation

Author Terry Pratchett will tonight call for assisted suicide to be legalised as two polls revealed most people back the move.

The writer will give the Richard Dimbleby Lecture tonight, which will be screened on BBC One, and will say that a “tribunal” should be set up to give seriously ill people permission to get help to die.

He will offer himself as a test case for such a body, which would include a legal expert in family affairs and a doctor who had dealt with serious, long-term illness.

The best-selling author, who has Alzheimer’s disease, laid out his ideas in the wake of two high-profile assisted death cases.

Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of attempted murder after helping her daughter, who was paralysed by ME, to end her life.

But Frances Inglis was jailed for a minimum of nine years for murder and attempted murder because she gave her brain-damaged son Tom a heroin overdose.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Daily Telegraph found that 75% of 2,053 people questioned wanted the law changed to allow assisted suicide, which is currently a crime.

In another survey for BBC Panorama 73% of those questioned said friends or relatives should be allowed to help someone who is terminally ill to commit suicide without fear of punishment.

This fell to 48% when the illness was incurable and painful, but not fatal - and 49% said those involved should face prosecution.

Pratchett will tell an audience at the Royal College of Physicians: “If I knew that I could die at any time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.”

He will say that many GPs would support the right to die and that turning to the medical profession to help was “sensible”.

“I certainly do not expect or assume that every GP or hospital practitioner would be prepared to assist death by arrangement, even in the face of overwhelming medical evidence. That is their choice. Choice is very important in this matter.

“But there will be some probably older, probably wiser, who will understand. It seems sensible to me that we should look to the medical profession that over the centuries has helped us to live longer and healthier lives, to help us die peacefully among our loved ones in our own home without a long stay in God’s waiting room.”

Panorama includes an interview with Mrs Gilderdale, who gave her daughter additional drugs after she had taken a morphine overdose.

Mrs Gilderdale was cleared of attempted murder and given a 12-month conditional discharge for assisting a suicide last week.

She said: “I know I did the right thing for Lynn. She’s free and at peace where she needed to be. Whatever the consequences, I would do it again.”

For the BBC survey ComRes polled 1,010 adults between January 8 and 10.

:: 'Panorama: I Helped My Daughter to Die' will be shown on BBC One at 8.30pm tonight, and the Richard Dimbleby Lecture will be screened at 10.35pm.

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