Casualty is a prime time weekly television show broadcast on BBC One, the longest running emergency medical drama television series in the world, and a multiple BAFTA winner. Later this year it is to present a major storyline about euthanasia on British TV screens, probably in August.
Oscar-winning actress Brenda Fricker is to reprise her Casualty role for the assisted suicide storyline. Brenda’s character Megan Roach, a part she played in the 1980s, will return as a terminally ill cancer patient begging to die. The plot is expected to play out over four episodes, and will involve Tess (Suzanne Packer) and Megan’s old friend Charlie (Derek Thompson), who wrestles with his conscience over what to do. In the episode, he says: “You’re dying. But you’re not dying alone.”
Producer Oliver Kent said: “Charlie realises his best friend is terminally ill. “He turns to Tess and they make difficult decisions.” Newspapers have previously been reported that Dublin-born Brenda is signed up to Swiss euthanasia group Dignitas.
She said: “I pay Dignitas money every year and if I want to die by suicide they’ll help me. But I will have to have someone from Ireland come with me, and I don’t know if I have any friend good enough to do that. My parents are dead and my sister died recently, so if I did die it wouldn’t really hurt anybody. There is no family left.”
Fricker, who won an Academy Award for her role in 1989 film My Left Foot, will be back in Casualty for four episodes.
In 1990, Brenda won an Oscar for her role in My Left Foot. Speaking about the storyline and Brenda’s performance, the producer said, “The story climaxes towards the end of the series with an almost three-hander, which is the best episode of Casualty I’ve ever seen. When I read the script, it made me cry so much that I couldn’t see it. And when I watched it, it was the first time I’d watched an episode and not had a single note to give. Brenda’s just incredible.”
Casualty is one of those highly dramatised soaps that viewers tend to love or hate in equal measure. Can such low-brow fare really help us examine issues or is the use of such dramatic life and death themes really no more than gratuitous?
Professor of Moral Philosophy from Glasgow University is interested in collaborative writing with doctors and nurses, but his leisure time is devoted to the arts. “Caring for those in need can of course raise questions of the meaning of life, of the tragedy and tears, and sometimes the comic absurdity, built into human relationships. Such questions inevitably arise in medical situations and require some sort of answer if the life of the professional is to seem worthwhile. The arts can approach these questions with an immediacy lacking in the abstractions of philosophy or the social sciences. Moreover, this immediacy can provide a catharsis, a relief from pent-up emotion and tensions, though tears and laughter.” (The Healing Arts – An Oxford Anthology)
Downie has suggested the usefulness of the Arts in grappling with life and death issues, with ambulances, hospitals and deathbeds in arts in the widest sense – from opera and great literature and poetry to the comic books and media of the masses. Let us know what you think of the Casualty episodes and they have value for you!