BBC TV presenter arrested over mercy killing

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 13:37 EDT
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LONDON — A veteran BBC broadcaster was arrested on suspicion of murder Wednesday after admitting he had smothered to death an ex-lover who had AIDS, police said.

Ray Gosling, 70, made the confession in a television programme this week about assisted suicide, and ahead of the publication of new guidelines on assisted suicide next week.

He said he killed the unnamed man as he lay seriously ill in hospital “in the early period of AIDS” — likely to be during the 1980s.

A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police in central England said officers “this morning arrested a 70-year-old Nottingham man on suspicion of murder following comments on the BBC’s Inside Out programme on Monday evening.”

Gosling’s confession comes amid a fierce debate about so-called mercy killings and whether people with terminal illnesses be allowed to commit assisted suicide.

New, fuller guidelines on when prosecutions in such cases should be brought will be published on Thursday next week, the Crown Prosecution Service said Wednesday.

In the programme, Gosling told of how he had taken his lover’s life after they agreed a pact.

“In a hospital one hot afternoon, the doctor said, ‘There’s nothing we can do’, and he was in terrible, terrible pain,” he told viewers. “I said to the doctor, ‘Leave me just for a bit’ and he went away.

“I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead.”

Gosling’s solicitor Digby Johnson told reporters after visiting him at the police station where he is being held that the TV host was in “good spirits” but the investigation was still at a “very, very early stage”.

The law in this field has come into sharp focus after two recent cases of mothers who killed their seriously ill children, one of whom was jailed and another who was not.

There have also been several high-profile cases of Britons going to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to die in recent months.

Author Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer’s disease, became the latest public figure to speak out this month, urging the creation of special panels where seriously ill people could make the case for their right to die legally.

But those opposed say changing the law could put leave very sick people vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous relatives.

Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, published interim guidelines on when assisted suicide cases should be prosecuted.

He was forced to take fresh action after a House of Lords ruling in the case of Debbie Purdy, a woman with multiple sclerosis who wanted to find out if her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her to die at Dignitas.

The interim guidelines said that while there were some factors which could weigh against the chances of someone being prosecuted, such as the victim asking for help, assisted suicide was still a criminal offence.

The new guidance due next week should provide further clarity.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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