A veteran British broadcaster was arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday after admitting he smothered an ex-lover who had AIDS, highlighting intense debate over assisted suicide.
Ray Gosling, 70, made the confession in a television program this week about assisted suicide, ahead of the publication of new government guidelines on the issue 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 program on Monday.”
Gosling’s confession comes amid a fierce debate in Britain about so-called mercy killings and whether people with terminal illnesses should 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 program, 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 BBC defended its decision to broadcast the confession, saying it had done so “for reasons of journalistic integrity.
“We believe we have handled the report sensitively and appropriately,” said a spokesman, adding Gosling had been aware of the possible consequences of the on-screen admission.
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 leave very sick people vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous relatives.
Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, was forced to publish interim guidelines on when assisted suicide cases should be prosecuted after a House of Lords ruling.
Those 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 is hoped to provide further clarity.