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Euthanasia doc sparks suit threat

Attorneys for Holland’s Dutch public broadcast system have threatened legal action against Italian public broadcaster RAI after RAI 2 cut a “significant segment” of the controversial documentary over euthanasia, “Death on Request.”

Euthanasia is not legal in Holland, but is permitted under controlled circumstances. The documentary was originally aired in October by Dutch pubcaster IKON and subsequently sold to more than 20 territories.

In a letter to RAI 2, attorneys pointed out the contract clearly states there is to be no editing of the film to “prevent the subject matter from being exploited for its sensational value only,” said IKON head of publicity Erwin Van’t Land.

“As we understand it,” said Van’t Land, “the segments left out by RAI include the lethal injection, and what happens thereafter. Portions showing the role of the doctor as a counselor to the patient’s family, not just someone who gives a lethal injection, and the presence of the coroner, which suggests there is control over the way euthanasia is administered, ” were excised, he adds.

The letter asks RAI 2 to explain its “apparent breach of contract” and threatens possible legal action. IKON already has filed court papers in Germany against commercial channel RTL, which aired only the last six minutes of “Death on Request,” clearly the “most sensational” part of it, said Van’t Land. That claim seeks DM400,000 ($275,000) in damages.

In the case of RAI 2, said Van’t Land, “We aren’t interested in monetary damages. We want to know why they did it, and will probably request that they fulfill the contract by airing the full documentary.” IKON also plans to pursue legal measures against a Turkish commercial broadcaster, which is said to have rebroadcast a pirated videotape of the film.

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