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Ordering suicide: media reporting of family assisted suicide in Britain
  1. Albert Banerjee1,
  2. Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli2
  1. 1
    Department of Sociology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Nursing, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  1. Mr Albert Banerjee, Department of Sociology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3, Canada; balbertb{at}yorku.ca

Abstract

Objective: To explore the relationship between the presentation of suffering and support for euthanasia in the British news media.

Method: Data was retrieved by searching the British newspaper database LexisNexis from 1996 to 2000. Twenty-nine articles covering three cases of family assisted suicide (FAS) were found. Presentations of suffering were analysed employing Heidegger’s distinction between technological ordering and poetic revealing.

Findings: With few exceptions, the press constructed the complex terrain of FAS as an orderly or orderable performance. This was enabled by containing the contradictions of FAS through a number of journalistic strategies: treating degenerative dying as an aberrant condition, smoothing over botched attempts, locating the object of ethical evaluation in persons, not contexts, abbreviating the decision making process, constructing community consensus and marginalising opposing views.

Conclusion: The findings of this study support the view that news reporting of FAS is not neutral or inconsequential. In particular, those reports presenting FAS as an orderly, rational performance were biased in favor of technical solutions by way of the legalisation of euthanasia and/or the involvement of medical professionals. In contrast, while news reports sensitive to contradiction did not necessarily oppose euthanasia, they were less inclined to overtly support technical solutions, recognising the importance of a trial to address the complexity of FAS.

  • assisted suicide
  • suffering
  • bioethical issues
  • media
  • UK

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None

  • Abbreviations:
    FAS
    family assisted suicide

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