British TV to Broadcast Sick Man's Suicide

British TV station defends plans to show man's death at Swiss suicide clinic.

ByABC News
December 10, 2008, 11:31 AM

LONDON, Dec. 10, 2008— -- SKY TV will broadcast a British television first tonight -- an American man committing suicide.

Craig Ewert, who had been living for many years in Yorkshire, North England, ended his life in 2006 in an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, rather than live with motor neurone disease that had left him paralyzed. He also invited Canadian filmmakers to capture his final moments, which will be broadcast this evening.

The documentary will show Ewert, 59, swallowing a lethal mixture of sedatives and switching off his life-support machine with his wife by his side.

The final exchange between husband and wife, who spent 37 years together, is captured on camera. His wife Mary Ewert says: "Can I give you a kiss?" He replies: "Of course."

They tell one another they love each other one final time and she says: "Have a safe journey. I will see you some time."

Ewert, who had lost the use of his limbs, used his mouth to switch off his machine. He died 45 minutes later, listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

The father of two explained his decision in an interview during the film: "I am tired of the disease but I am not tired of living. I still enjoy life enough that I would like to continue but the thing is that I really cannot. If I opt for life, then that is choosing to be tortured rather than end this journey and start the next one. I cannot take the risk. Let's face it, when you're completely paralyzed and cannot talk, how do you let somebody know you are suffering?"

His wife, doesn't think that it was intrusive to allow cameras to film the death of her husband and maintains that it was about spreading a message.

She told the Daily Mail she has no regrets. "If this film gets people thinking about death and talking about it, that's all that Craig would have wished. ... We were both convinced that controversial issues, such as showing someone dying on TV, are only controversial because there's such a taboo surrounding them."