If Coronation Street character Hayley Cropper had visited The Hospice of St Francis she may not have felt the need to take her own life, said its director.
Ros Taylor said that of the 34 years she has worked in end-of-life care, treating thousands of dying patients, she cannot remember one person committing suicide.
She said: “I see people longing for more hope and somehow creating good memories in that time, wanting as much time as possible together with those they love.
“If people are scared or frightened or in pain, we have services for that.”
Cancer sufferer Hayley took her own life while lying in bed beside her husband Roy in last Monday’s episode of the popular ITV soap opera.
Dr Taylor said that while Hayley had personal reasons for taking her own life, the storyline sent ‘quite a sad message to the public’ about dying.
Hayley still had a lot to live for – a loving husband, friends and a great sense of humour, Dr Taylor said.
But she praised the soap opera for encouraging people to talk about dying – something that the Northchurch hospice supports.
She said that though people have expressed the desire to take their own life in hospice therapy sessions in the past, none have acted on it.
She said: “We would really see that as an opportunity to find out why they think life is no longer worth living – whether it be due to pain or other symptoms.
“It is not usually about pain – it is about feeling a burden or because of self-esteem. We would work really hard with our hospice team to see how they can recover from that.”
ITV had billed the Coronation Street episode as contributing to the debate on assisted dying, though in the end Hayley took her life unaided.
Dr Taylor, who was given an MBE for her services to hospice care in the Queen’s New Years Honours list, does not support recent calls to legalise assisted suicide.
She said: “Before the law changes, there needs to be more investment in better end-of-life care.
“A lot of people think the law should be changed because they are fearful they will not get the care that they need when they are dying.”