Episode opens eyes to end-of-life issues

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I am responding to Sidney Heidersdorf's March 17 letter to the editor, "Presenting an assisted suicide on TV is simply wrong."

Heidersdorf thinks it was irresponsible for KTOO to air a Frontline Episode called "The Suicide Tourist." Take a look at their Web site, and you will discover that Frontline is a PBS produced show with widely varied topics ranging from the financial crisis to Iraq to a story about the first Christians. Any regular viewer of the show knows that it covers all views and ranges of belief. In contrast to Heidersdorf's belief that this show represents corporate irresponsibility, Frontline frequently airs episodes such as "Flying Cheap," about the irresponsibility of the commercial airline industry.

What Heidersdorf does not grapple with is that not everyone believes in the same "values" that he does, and that we are not all Judeo-Christians. I saw the episode "The Suicide Tourist," and I was moved to tears (literally) about the difficult choices that this man and his wife were faced with as his faculties were slowly disintegrating from the effects of ALS. Even if Heidersdorf does not agree with the choice he made to fly to Switzerland to end his life, it does not mean that Frontline should not have produced, and KTOO should not have aired the episode. There is value in talking and thinking about the quality of life and end-of-life issues, and there is always value in understanding viewpoints besides your own.

Finally, to suggest that this episode had any common elements with abortion or suicide among our youth is absurd. It was clearly not sanitized suicide: it was a painful and brave choice. Life is a gift, and after viewing I found myself more grateful for my life and my health than ever before.

DJ Thomson


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