An MP has criticised the BBC for planning to air a situation comedy which treats assisted suicide as a “matter of fun”, reports the Sunday Express.
‘Way To Go’ has three young men building a machine that can kill people. They offer their services for money to those who wish to end their lives. The show is written by US-based writer Bob Kushell and stars Blake Harrison, Marc Wootton and Ben Heathcote.
But Conservative MP Mark Pritchard has slammed the sitcom, planned to go out on BBC 3 this month. He said: “This is a sensitive and complex issue that should be handled with compassion and understanding.
“It is a sad fact that assisted dying is now regarded a ‘revenue stream’ to some foreign clinics and clearly as a matter of fun by some parts of the BBC.”
In one scene the lever of the machine is pulled to inject a fatal dose. Harrison’s next-door neighbour dies in a matter of seconds.
Later a friend phones from a pub with another client for the assisted suicide machine.
He tells him: “He’s got stomach cancer. How fantastic is that!”
BBC 3 controller Zai Bennett said: ‘Bob Kushell’s scripts are in turn dark, poignant, absurd, moving and brilliant, but mostly they are very, very funny. I’m thrilled that Way To Go is coming to BBC 3.’
Comedy producer Jon Plowman, responsible for shows such as The Office and Little Britain, said: ‘Way To Go is a show about a current and difficult issue but it treats its serious subject in the same way that Arsenic And Old Lace dealt with old lady poisoners or Kind Hearts And Coronets dealt with aristocratic murders.’
Government figures show that three-quarters of suicides in the UK are by men with those aged 30-39 at highest risk of suicide, followed by men aged 40-49.
However, teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in people aged 15-24, behind accidental death.
Concerns have repeatedly been raised about websites promoting suicide and self-harm not least as reported in both the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. The latter reported on new research carried out by the charity ‘Beat Bullying’ which, it said, ‘revealed that websites encouraging suicide and self-harm topped a list of teenagers’ greatest worries about the internet. The findings have raised fears that growing numbers of young people are becoming vulnerable to the messages being put out by such sites.’
The death of Tallulah Wilson, who committed suicide last year aged just 15, prompted calls for such websites to be banned.
The Telegraph reported: ‘Tallulah had also dedicated her Twitter account to Rosie Whitaker, also 15, who apparently threw herself in front of a train at Beckenham Junction station in south-east London in June after becoming “heavily influenced” by suicide websites.’
In Bridgend, a spate of teenage suicides prompted Phillip Walters, the coroner, to investigate social media websites which were heavily implicated in the deaths. The coroner said: ‘I shall be looking at these networking sites myself to see if there is a link between them and the growing number of youngsters committing suicide.’ Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon described the deaths as ‘tragic’.
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said today:
‘Amidst a growing cult of suicide among young people, BBC3 thinks it is appropriate to screen a comedy making light of suicide, in which the protagonists are those from exactly the most vulnerable demographic. The comparison with 1940s film comedies is false. There are not legions of old ladies about to be prompted to become serial killers. But there are hundreds if not thousands of vulnerable teenagers.
‘Making suicide funny makes it acceptable. BBC3 is reinforcing the message of the suicide websites. ‘Irresponsible’ hardly conveys the enormity of it. If their programme results in just one suicide of a troubled young person, BBC3 controller Zai Bennett and new Director General Tony Hall will have blood on their hands.’
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