Bioethics News

Terry Pratchett, novelist, Alzheimer’s campaigner and star euthanasia promoter, dies

Terry Pratchett, novelist, Alzheimer’s campaigner and star euthanasia promoter, dies

British fantasy writer and star campaigner for assisted suicide Sir Terry Pratchett died this week a natural death surrounded by his family. He had been suffering from early-onset dementia for several years.

In the 1990s Sir Terry was the UK’s top-selling and highest-earning author. Over the course of his career he wrote 70 books which sold over 70 million copies. His fans loved his wry comic sense and imagined worlds. He was a flamboyant character, a media darling who always wore a large black fedora.

In 2007 he revealed that he had a form of Alzheimer’s disease and in 2009 he began to campaign for assisted suicide. In 2011 he narrated a highly controversial BBC documentary, “Choosing to Die”, which chronicled a trip to a Swiss suicide clinic with a man with motor neurone disease, Peter Smedley. He was present when Smedley died.

In 2010 he floated the idea of euthanasia tribunals to assess whether people were eligible for “assisted death”.

The members of the tribunal would be acting for the good of society as well as that of the applicant – horrible word – to ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party. 

However, in the end, Sir Terry did not take his own life. BBC News correspondent Nick Higham said: “I was told by the publishers his death was entirely natural and unassisted, even though he had said in the past he wanted to go at a time of his own choosing.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.