The liberal media must remember the risk of copycat syndrome Earlier this week Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in-syndrome, died. For the last couple of years, he had led a high-profile campaign to change the law on murder. His argument was that because of his condition he was incapable of ending his life, and needed someone to kill him without the fear of prosecution.
The High Court rejected this claim, saying that changing the law on murder to allow defendants to claim an act of voluntary euthanasia was incompatible with English Law.
In their 60-page ruling, the judges also said that it was not for them to change the law, especially when the current law had been debated, or voted on in Parliament half a dozen times in recent years and as recently as Spring 2012.
No one who followed Tony's sad case could fail to be moved by it. Indeed, while I come from the other side of the argument, I admired his courage and indeed his tenacity to fight for something that he passionately believed in.
But my admiration for Tony and my compassion for his condition does not extend to the shameful and shoddy reporting of his story by the liberal media. They have consistently acted as the cheerleaders for changing the law so that the disabled and terminally ill can be killed or kill themselves.
Through their portrayal of this issue, liberal newspapers and TV have put the lives of vulnerable people at risk, because of suicide contagion.
Suicide contagion, or the Werther effect, is a well-known and well-documented phenomenon, grounded in dozens of scientific papers. It is recognised by the Press Complaints Commission, BBC, charities like the Samaritans, and even by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Indeed, the WHO has for many years published international guidelines on suicide portrayal for those working in the media. Over 50 investigations into imitative suicides have been conducted. Systematic reviews of these studies have consistently drawn the same conclusion: media reporting of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviours. These reviews have also observed that imitation is more evident under some circumstances than others, they say.
They warn journalists and broadcasters to avoid language that sensationalises or normalises suicide, or presents it as a solution to problems. The media is told to avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide. Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide. Exercise caution in using photographs or video footage. And finally: take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides.
National advice from the Samaritans is similarly clear. Recent research, both in the UK, USA and other countries, strongly indicates that media representation can and does lead to copycat behavior. Those most affected appear to be young people, and the risk seems to be greater when there is a feeling of identification, such as in the case of a celebrity death by suicide, or the death by suicide of an attractive fictional character. It is also very dangerous to provide specific details of a suicide method as this can provide a vulnerable person with the knowledge they need to complete a suicide.
The guideline from the WHO and Samaritans is also reflected in the PCC's Editors' Code of Practice, which was amended in March 2009 in the aftermath of the series of deaths of young people in and around Bridgend, South Wales.
It reiterates the need to avoid 'excessive detail', stresses the risks of glorification of suicide and cautions about republication of photographs of previous individuals who have taken their lives.
Despite these guidelines, the liberal media continues to act as the champion of assisted suicide and now, astonishingly, for euthanasia.
And this week was no different, with near-hysterical coverage on Channel 4. Experienced presenter Cathy Newman compounding her deeply one-sided coverage by taking to Twitter: "Just finished interviewing @tonynicklinson after High Court passes buck to Parliament. He says MPs won't decide because they're cowards", she gushed. "He also told me he'd consider refusing food and drink to starve himself to death but only as 'a last resort' if he loses at Supreme Court", and "Says he's almost relieved his physical deterioration means he may be nearing an end but fears it will be 'bloody painful.'"
Ms Newman was not alone in pushing this agenda and making a series of irresponsible comments that may well be fuelling a growth in suicides in the UK.
Eddie Mair on the BBC's Newsnight gazed teary-eyed at the front pages of newspapers featuring pictures of Mr Nicklinson, telling viewers the Independent was carrying a picture of him the moment he heard news of the court verdict, under the headline, 'A fate worse than death'.
He then remarked, "you could just look at the picture". And this is separate to the five pro assisted suicide documentaries and docu-dramas the BBC have aired in the last few years.
At the same time the lives of disabled people and the terminally ill are consistently portrayed as not worth living. Those suffering terminal diseases are led to believe that their deaths are going to be harrowing and gut-wrenchingly painful. And that, in today's world where the Government is pushing through a modest package of cuts to the public sector, they can't be guaranteed the care and support they need - despite the fact that the NHS has been protected against cuts.
Is it any wonder that figures from the Office for National Statistics show that suicides in England rose from 3,993 in 2007 to 4,390 in 2009 Â - an overall increase of 10 per cent and the greatest two-year rise in over a decade. Amongst males aged 45-74, the rise has been 16 per cent from 1,174 to 1370. The latter figure is the highest in over 20 years and the constant pro assisted suicide - pro euthanasia barrage may well be part of the reason behind the increase.
Legalising assisted suicide, the liberal media's preferred choice, is not going to reverse this rise. The evidence suggests that legalising assisted suicide will lead to a further jump in these terrible figures - just look at Oregon. Suicide rates in this state, where assisted suicide was legalised in 1997, are 35 per cent higher than the national U.S. average, and have since 1997 risen faster than the national average.
So while the worst elements of the liberal London-centric media continue to believe that changing the law is easy and can be done without serious consequences, they ignore the facts. And the sad truth is that their one-sided, partisan and sensational reporting of these stories is highly likely to be causing more suicides, hastening the deaths of the terminally ill and leading many vulnerable and disabled people to feel that their life is no longer of any worth and that the only way out is to end it.
Alistair Thompson is a spokesman for the anti-euthanasia campaign group Care Not Killing.
Do you like this post?