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Emmerdale’s Jackson Walsh Assisted Suicide Scenes Lead To OfCom Complaints

June 8, 2011

Emmerdale’s Marc Silcock has insisted that programme-makers ensured that the death of his character Jackson Walsh was not glorified.

TV regulator Ofcom is assessing complaints about tetraplegic Jackson’s assisted suicide, which was screened on Tuesday night, showing him take his own life after being given a cocktail of drugs by his lover, Aaron.

But Marc said: “We ensured it wasn’t beautiful – it is horrific, because it’s a horrific thing.

“Some people might have liked to have seen soft music in the background and for Jackson to slowly drift off to sleep. But that’s not reality and not what happens. We didn’t want to glorify it for one second.”

The watchdog said that it had received a handful of complaints about the soap’s plot, which saw tetraplegic character Jackson Walsh take his own life after being given a cocktail of drugs by his lover.

The dramatic scenes were shown on ITV1 at around 7.30pm, well before the 9pm watershed.

Ofcom will assess whether the scenes may potentially have breached any harm and offence rules. No decisions will be made until the storyline concludes.

Scenes of a real assisted suicide have previously been cleared by the regulator when screened in a Sky documentary in 2008.

Viewers have seen Emmerdale character Jackson struggling to come to terms with his paralysis following an accident and choosing to die.

How do you feel about the storyline, readers?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. *Stargazer permalink
    June 8, 2011 5:23 pm

    I’m interested that there were only a handful of complaints – am I right in thinking they centre mainly on the scheduling of this episode? The fact it was before the watershed did concern me a little – my Mum said the way it was shot wouldn’t have been too obvious to a very young child, but may have your eight year old asking questions? It may have perhaps been more appropriate to screen at 8.30pm – when most 8 year olds should be in bed, and with parental guidance for young teenagers.

    I wrongly commented on a previous post (on assisted suicide) that Jackson’s character was quadriplegic – he was in fact tetraplegic. My previous comment explained my viewpoint – I am long-term sick and disabled (by inherited disease), barely coping at times with alot of pain and immobility – but if I were in Jackson’s situation, I may well be contemplating a trip to Switzerland.
    It would not be easy for me to ask a loved one in my immediate family to help me die – we’re mostly disabled.

    I don’t believe I would cope very well at all as a quadriplegic or tetraplegic – at the mercy of the failing NHS, social cuts and taking pot luck with carers. If I were unable to scratch an itchy nose, feed or wipe myself, I would be veering away from depression toward mental illness – IF I DID NOT HAVE THE OPTION of going to Switzerland – or getting a UK judge to NOT prosecute an able-bodied loved one for euthanasing me.

    I strongly believe that the purpose of the Emmerdale storyline is to highlight the tragic facts.
    There may well be thousands of people in the UK who feel the same as Jackson.
    Owing to poorly legislated issues around criminalisation of the people who would mercifully assist dignified death to a loved one, in the comfort of their own home, many incredibly sick people are suffering unnecessarily – they are unable to say goodbye to their loved ones, in a comfortable and fitting way, before the time THEY CHOOSE to die.

    Both my Mum and I agree – WE THINK IT’S CRIMINAL THAT THERE ARE NOT ALREADY STRINGENT, LEGISLATED GUIDELINES SET UP, in the wake of Diane Pretty and Lynn Gilderdale’s well documented experiences of long-term debilitating disease and their battle for the right to choose when and where they die – also TO SUPPORT THE ALREADY DEVASTATED AND EXHAUSTED LOVED ONES LEFT BEHIND, TO NAVIGATE THE LEGAL PROCESS THEREAFTER.
    Long-term and terminally sick people SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE. The process should be very stringently controlled and of course, in each and every case, on its own merit, must be passed and certified by an authorised Judiciary and implemented by SPECIAL REGISTRATION of the family GP.

  2. John Hargrave permalink
    June 9, 2011 6:22 am

    Many tetraplegic’s can, and do, live full lives, many are significant roll models both nationally and within there own communities. To me life has to be lived to the full and if this storyline was allowed to develop properly, it might have shown Jackson to be totally depressed and that after a period of help, he was able to make a different decision entirely. No doubt many people, not just with his condition, seriously consider taking their won lives after becoming newly injured. The far, far, majority will be pleased help was available and that they have now gone onto live successful lives.
    Of course, the implications are that it is ok to help kill a disabled person, when, in fact it is totally unlawful.It gives the impression that disabled people’s lives are not ‘worthy’ of living at all, and that it is ok for people to assume killing them is what they would have wanted.
    From the things I saw about the character Jackson, he was offered no professional help at all, and this should have been part of the storyline. At the end of the day, this programme has done a great disservice to disabled people, for the want of making a television soap. Unfortunately many people think this is real life, when it is clearly not.

  3. *Stargazer permalink
    June 15, 2011 1:58 am

    Whether you’re severely/ chronically or terminally ill or not:
    If you’re desolately miserable/ unhappy/ depressed; in excruciating physical and/ or mental pain,
    and just want to die – for alot of people it is IMPOSSIBLE to live a happy and fulfilling life.
    No matter how much time you give it, to adjust to adverse situations.
    No matter how much love, support and money you may, or may not have.
    No matter how many people love and will miss you – as much as you will always love and miss them.
    It will be very hard to say goodbye.

    But if it’s even harder for that someone very sick to continue living,
    the dignity and peace of mind that legislated Certified Assisted Death would give, in mine and my Mum’s opinion is likely to prolong life – in many cases – WAY beyond the natural point where they would HAD to have been well enough to go to Switzerland – or to administer lethal drugs to themselves at home, in order for their family not to be prosecuted.

    They would not be racing against time, exacerbating their illness getting organised, saving money and getting loved-ones together – in order to be well enough within their illness, for a trip to Switzerland.
    They would be able to CHOOSE, a naturally right time for THEM to die, peacefully at home.
    Having the RIGHT TO CHOOSE a Certified Assisted Death would give them precious time;
    to gather friends and enjoy family time, get affairs in order, argue over who wants to be there with them when they want to finally depart this mortal coil.
    They do not have that time, if their loved one has to be well enough to go to Switzerland.
    Here in the UK there is no judgement/ law passed, whereby family can lawfully help you end your life.
    We are stuck with the Switzerland option or breaking the law.

    Yes, disabled and sick people who triumph against adversity and all the odds should be celebrated, and drawn reference to. I hope to be one of those inspirational disabled people one day – there’s alot of fight left in me yet!! We should not forget the value attached to what is being fought for here though;
    by many people who are sick AND many people who are AT PRESENT in good health.
    The RIGHT TO CHOOSE – for very ill people to decide; When and Where THEY end THEIR LIFE.
    I would very much like to have the choice.
    I fully expect I would, of course, be exhaustively counselled, assessed, judged and certified.
    If I were to be in a condition where I could not take any more and just wanted out.

    Stringent procedural controls should be in place to protect and defend the vulnerable, to prevent situations where the very sick, disabled, elderly or infirm may feel pressured or co-erced into doing away with themselves – or are being unlawfully assisted.
    This should never become opportunity for people to “cut the sandbags”.

    A case where legislated process and certification has not been observed should be treated as is now;
    on its own merit according to the circumstances – for a Judge to rule on and pass sentence.

    This is why we need broadly balanced and involved debate; why we need blogs and forums –
    we all have differing opinions and this is mine.
    We need a referendum.
    We need the establishment to be brave enough to stringently and compassionately legislate.
    It’s my human right to choose and the law should reflect that.

    Whether or not I believe God could forgive my suicide – assisted or not – I believe it’s the right of all religious AND non-religious human beings to choose – IT’S YOUR LIFE!
    How you fare with your maker therafter is a personal thing and irrelevant to how the law is criminalising family who assist sick people who are desperate and suffering.
    People expressing a constant desire to be expired.
    God left us with free will when he cast us from Eden.
    That was the whole point of forbidding the apple!

    Situations will arise where people who can be helped will get help, will flourish and survive their illness to its natural end. Others will eventually go down a much deliberated, dignified and timely path to Certified Assisted Death – with the law firmly in place allowing the people left behind to get on with grieving.

    We are allowed to attach DNR to our medical records – Do Not Resuscitate.
    Why can we not have the right to attach something like Certificated Assisted Death?

  4. *Stargazer permalink
    June 15, 2011 2:20 am

    Emmerdale’s “Jackson’s Assisted Suicide” storyline was I think to highlight the fact that there are many people unaware of Dignitas and what they do in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is, yes – legal, but also stringently controlled and legislated for. It is the opinion of the majority of the Swiss nation that they are right to have it AND to allow sick people from all over the world to access that support.

    I’d be very interested to know the percentages, of people who after consulting with Dignitas, decide not to go through with it immediately, those who prolong it for 12-18 months after, and those who die naturally at home.

    I believe the whole point of that storyline was to make people overwhelmingly aware that the wishes and rights of those who are severely ill/ disabled need to be acknowledged, debated – more adequately served.

    There are many people unaware of the criminality around assisted suicide.
    It’s important that people know there are legal and social ramifications.
    It’s important that people know that not everyone agrees with it – especially religious figures.

    The accessibility of soaps makes it possible for writers to engage with a wider audience and provoke debate.
    Debate that will one day I hope, lead to legislation that takes into account the rights and wishes of the nation’s sick AND protects the vulnerable from mis-appropriation of their situation, their rights and their wishes.

    I am aware that Emmerdale and its characters are not “real”.
    But they ARE however highlighting REAL issues.

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