Friday, 17 March 2017
MPs have just urged tighter restrictions on the portrayal of suicide, saying too much detail about suicide methods can prompt people to kill themselves - especially if the method shown is quick, easy and painless. They say a scene can still be dramatic without such "unnecessary" detail.
The Samaritans agree, saying that being less explicit would mean fewer people at risk from "irresponsible content".
It's a tricky argument. How much can certain scenes and details be reined back in the name of susceptible people, without curbing artistic and creative freedom? Should anything be officially reined back, or should we just accept that some vulnerable people will always be influenced?
If we agree with reining things back, is that the thin end of a dangerous wedge? Would more and more things be restricted "in the public interest" until scriptwriters feel they're being bound hand and foot?
Then again, is it right to actively prevent people from suicide, if they're set on it? If they think their life is so hopeless or so painful they simply want to end it, who are we to force them to carry on living?
And again, if such measures are adopted, in the internet age there must be many other sources for anyone wanting practical details. So how effective would these limited precautions actually be?
I don't have any easy answers. I want vulnerable people to be protected, but I would also fiercely defend artistic freedom. I need to think some more about this.