Terry Pratchett: “I want the right to choose a good death”

“If someone knows they can die when they want to, they can treasure every day,” says the author

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Next Monday (9:00pm BBC2), author Terry Pratchett takes a personal journey into the world of assisted suicide, and in the latest issue of Radio Times he explains how it changed his views about living with Alzheimer’s, with which he was diagnosed in 2008.

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In Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, Pratchett talks to three men with degenerative illnesses about how they have chosen to end their own lives.

Peter, who has motor neurone disease, travelled to the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, and in a harrowing sequence at the end of the programme his dying moments are captured on film.

“I shook hands with Peter,” says Pratchett, “and he said to me, ‘Have a good life’ and he added, ‘I know I have.’”

But Pratchett’s own reactions to the experience were far from straightforward. “I was spinning… something was saying, ‘A man is dead… that’s a bad thing.’

“But the second part of the clause chimed in with, ‘but he had an incurable disease that was dragging him down, so he’s decided of his own free will to leave before he was dragged.’ So it’s not a bad thing…. Peter got what he wanted – a good death.”

So does Pratchett think assisted suicide should be legal in this country?

“That’s what makes me so angry,” says Pratchett. “I am absolutely sure that if Peter had not had to go to Dignitas, he would probably still be around now. If there was somewhere in England he could have gone to, when it did become too much for him.”

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Read the full interview with Terry Pratchett in the new issue of Radio Times, on sale now