BBC2 is to air footage of the assisted suicide of businessman Simon Binner.
The death of Binner will be shown in How to Die: Simon’s Choice, a one-off 90 minute observational documentary that will follow the businessman as he faces the decision to end his life at a suicide clinic in Basel, Switzerland.
The film will depict the moment Binner, who was terminally ill with aggressive motor neurone disease, presses a button to take the toxic drink that ends his life and the moment of his passing. Before he dies he plays a recorded message of love to his wife Debbie who is with him.
However, the BBC stressed that the camera pans away at the moment of his death and the sequence will not show his face or his corpse.
This is not the first time the moment of death by assisted suicide has been shown on British terrestrial TV. Terry Pratchett’s 2011 documentary Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die showed the moment Peter Smedley, who also had motor neurone disease, took his own life in December 2010.
Made in partnership with The Open University, How to Die: Simon’s Choice was shot against the backdrop of the recent Parliamentary debate on assisted suicide, and is in part narrated by Binner with the help of a computer aided device.
Binner hit the headlines last year after announcing the date of his death on the professional networking site LinkedIn.
In a British television first, the documentary gains access to Switzerland’s second largest assisted suicide clinic where Simon initially makes an appointment to die.
Confronted with the possibility that Simon might want to end his own life, his wife Debbie (below) is initially relieved when the assisted suicide bill is defeated in Parliament: “I’ve always been quite anti-assisted dying,” she says in the film. “It’s one of those dinner-party conversations you have, never dreaming that you’d ever actually be having the conversation.”
Binner was diagnosed with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease in January 2015 and given two years to live. After telling loved ones that he was considering ending his life at a Swiss suicide clinic, Binner and his family and friends are shown grappling with the moral, emotional and legal dilemmas around his choice in the film.
Patrick Holland, BBC Head of Documentary Commissioning, said “This is a hugely important and powerful film about one of the most contentious issues facing families in the UK. Simon, his wife, family and friends have allowed us into their lives as they face one of the biggest dilemmas imaginable. Together they confront the terrible choices involved with love and humbling candour.”
How to Die: Simon’s Choice will air on BBC2 on 10th February 2016