Was Barr concerned the film might play a supporting role in that grandstanding? “Simon absolutely did not make any decision for grandstanding purposes on the basis that a camera was present. He would have laughed at the suggestion that the camera could influence him. He just wasn’t that kind of character.”
In early October, Simon confirmed on camera that he was reconsidering his choice, but then on Monday 12 October he tried to hang himself. It erased Debbie’s previous uncertainty that Simon truly wished to die. “We were meant to be filming that day, and arrived shortly after what happened,” says Deacon. “I was shocked that he’d attempted suicide. It was the pivotal moment for them.”
The date for his death was set for just a week later. Debbie invited friends and family to their Surrey home for a “gentle and low-key” farewell lunch. She wrote on her invite, “We have had one hell of a week and in light of recent developments Switzerland seems the kindest and best option. Simon has made it very clear that he has had enough.”
Film-maker Deacon says they did discuss whether to film the death. “We asked Debbie to tell us what those boundaries were. We strongly did not feel the film was ever dependent upon that footage.”
As it was, Simon died with Debbie, his sister and three friends present. Before triggering the infusion, he plays a heart-rending message to his wife recorded on his phone. “I have loved you very, very much, Debbie. We have had such a fun, laughter-filled marriage. The one blessing of a slow decline is that we have had time to speak about things over ten long months. We have really said everything that needs to be said.” The message ends: “I love you very much, Debbie. Goodbye.”
Two weeks later, Debbie was still torn.
“It was the right time for him, but I feel guilty that somehow I couldn’t make his life nice enough. If I had worked harder, made it easier, hadn’t snapped at him, maybe he wouldn’t have wanted to go. I don’t think any of that is logical but it leaves you with those kinds of feelings. Did I do enough..?”
The programme concludes not with death, but with life: cameraphone footage shows Simon – the “daft bugger”, as friends called him – boogieing with abandon to a song on the radio. He’s doing as we all should do – dance while we can.
How to Die: Simon’s Choice airs Wednesday at 09:00 p.m. on BBC2