Monday, August 8, 2011

The Modern Roman Colosseum: Euthanasia as a Spectator Sport

Last month, Nikolai Ivanisovich, a 62-year old Russian man with brain cancer, sold the rights to broadcast his euthanasia to, a 24/7 reality TV website. The proceeds were reportedly enough to take care of his surviving family. In June, BBC2 broadcast a documentary showing the suicide of terminally ill Peter Smedley, including his pitiful cries for waterthat were refused by the doctor.
A disturbing trend has developed over the last few years of broadcasting the suicides of the weak and elderly in society for entertainment. Much of it is due to the glamorization of assisted suicide by a Swiss suicide clinic known as Dignitas. London’s Sky TV broadcast one of the first assisted suicides on TV at Dignitas in 2008 in the documentary “Right to Die?” Located in the beautiful mountains of Zurich, with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony playing in the background at the patient’s request, the clinic provided a false picture of what assisted suicide is really about. In contrast, the BBC2 documentary “Choosing to Die” purposely left out the details of a secondterminally ill suicide performed at Dignitas, because the patient took 90 minutes to die, prompting the staff to instruct his mother not to hug him because it was prolonging his life. Euthanasia proponents selectively choose what to show in order to mislead the public.
Two assisted suicides recently broadcast on television were of people with Motor Neurone Disease. This disease includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Patients diagnosed with it gradually lose use of their muscles, motor functions and become weak. Life expectancy after diagnosis is two to five years, and death can be due to suffocation.

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