This week, Radio Times spoke to author Terry Pratchett about his upcoming BBC2 documentary Choosing to Die (Monday 13 June, 9:00pm), in which he investigates assisted suicide and asks why it is not an option for terminally ill patients in this country.
In the programme, a man named only as Peter is seen saying goodbye to his wife and the programme-makers before drinking a poisonous draught and dying. Now, the man has been named as Peter Smedley, a millionaire hotelier and former head of the Smedley’s tinned food brand.
A friend of Mr Smedley told The Daily Telegraph that many of those close to him had not been aware of his decision to end his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, or that he was taking part in Pratchett’s film, until after his death.
“Peter was an extremely private man and not someone that would want to share most things… We didn’t know until after the event that he had gone to Dignitas, and we didn’t know about the film until we went to the memorial service and the film crew was there.”
The unnamed friend also spoke about Mr Smedley’s wish to make assisted suicide legal in Britain.
“Clearly he wanted to change the law. I think he was very keen for people in that predicament to be able to make a decision on when to end their lives… it’s a terrible thing to have to go to Switzerland. He would have wanted to die in his own bedroom or his own sitting room.”
Terry Pratchett – who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008 and is himself an advocate of assisted suicide – said of Peter Smedley and his wife: “They are of a class and type that gets on with things and deals with difficulties with a quiet determination.”
“I shook hands with Peter [as he prepared to die] and he said to me, ‘Have a good life. I know I have’.”