BBC 4 “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die”

One of the best documentaries on any subject that I’ve ever seen is the 2011 film originally aired on BBC 4, “Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die.”  As its title suggests, the documentary looks at two UK citizens travelling to Switzerland to have an assisted death.  The presenter is someone who will probably not be alive much longer, author Sir Terry Pratchett.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s back in 2007.  Since then, he has lost the ability to type and now dictates his works to an assistant.

Oh, I hear you. “Hang on — isn’t this a strange film to recommend on a blog called ReasonsNotToCommitSuicide?”  Well, it’s not.  Here’s why:

  • People considering suicide are going to be curious as to what the euthanasia process is like.  I know I am.
  • The documentary shows the effects a person dying has on their families and the viewer’s own reactions.  You get to know the two people who are dead at the end of the film.
  • You get to know the difference between euthanasia and suicide.  The film does not endorse suicide for people with mental illness such as depression, even though this is allowed in Switzerland.  The two Brits who chose to die had incurable terminal (and painful) illnesses.

Another point made in the film was by the founder of Dignitas, a Swiss non-profit group that arranges assisted deaths by poison.  Many people who contact Digitas and begin finding out about the group’s services decide not to die.  They seem to feel stronger knowing that they still had the option to die.

People with mental illness have trouble thinking clearly about just how good or bad they feel.  I know I do.  Most of the days of my life I wish I was dead.  But I’m glad I’m still alive for one reason — I can take care of my crippled Mom.  Because I take care of her, she can stay in her own house.  I think if I commit suicide while she’s still alive (or if my dogs were still alive) that would be an incredibly selfish thing to do because no one would be able to take care of them.

Chances are, there is someone who relies on you, too.

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