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BBC host admits to taking part in suicide

February 25th, 2010

Ray Gosling, a documentary maker for the BBC, made a chilling confession during a narration for a documentary about death and dying. Gosling drifted away from the script and said, “I killed someone once.” That person was Gosling’s terminally ill partner who was dying of HIV/AIDS.

Gosling revealed that he asked the doctor to leave the room, and then smothered his dying partner, who was, as he put it, “in terrible, terrible pain.” Gosling was then arrested under the suspicion of murder. The exact details of the event have not yet been revealed.

However, according to The New York Times, “Gosling refused to name the man he said he had killed or to reveal where the killing took place. He has also said that he would not give the name to the police.” This event stirs up the moral question of assisted suicide.

Although it is illegal in England, the laws are quite ambiguous.

According to the Suicide Act of 1961, “to aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another” is illegal and carries prison time. In the United States, assisted suicide is legal in the states of Washington  and Oregon. The Death With Dignity Act, which was passed in Oregon in 1997, legalized assisted suicide, but with multiple requirements.

A person must be a legal adult, above the age of 18; a resident of Oregon; capable of making healthcare decisions (i.e. not in a vegetative state); and the patient must be diagnosed with a terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than six months. Although legal, the Death With Dignity Act remains controversial.

According to Paul Lauritzen, the director of the program of applied ethics at John Carroll University,  “Catholic teaching is that to deliberately take a human life is always wrong. Helping to take an innocent human life is, therefore, also wrong.”

However, some argue that it could be morally acceptbale in Gosling’s case, as his partner was needlessly suffering with no chance of recovery. When interviewed after making the confession, Gosling said, “I did the right thing. If there’s a heaven and he’s looking down, he’d be proud of me.”

Lauritzen went on to say that the Church teaches “One can stop life-sustaining treatment when such treatment is burdensome and there is no reasonable hope of benefit for the treatment.” Known as passive euthanasia, the Church condones this alternative to assisted suicide.