Commercials Advice, the watchdog set up by Free TV Australia to classify and approve television commercials, has banned another pro-euthanasia commercial for promoting suicide. The decision comes just weeks after the body refused classification for a controversial ad produced by right-to-die lobby group Exit International.

According to YourLastRight.com, the group behind the ad, CAD banned the spot for failing to comply with regulation 2.17 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. Section 2.17.5 of the code stipulates that “realistic depiction of methods of suicide, or promotion or encouragement of suicide is unsuitable for broadcast”.

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Free TV confirmed to Crikey the ad had been refused classification under section 2.17.5 of the code and that the body expressed no view on the ethical and legal debate surrounding voluntary euthanasia. But Neil Francis, chairman and CEO of the YourLastRight.com campaign, told Crikey the ad was rejected despite receiving preliminary commercial approval from CAD.

“The only thing that they [CAD] advised us of the airing time — that it should not be on during children’s programs and of course we would have no interest in airing during those periods,” Francis told Crikey.

The 30-second commercial, which was due to air this Sunday on the major commercial networks, has instead been uploaded to YouTube in the hope it goes viral. Exit International’s pro-euthanasia ad, which was also banned under section 2.17.5 of the code after receiving pre-approval from CAD, has been viewed over 30,000 times since being posted on the video sharing site.

The YourLastRight.com commercial features historic moments in Australia’s history and a voiceover declaring voluntary euthanasia as a right, similar to the right to vote, the right to a fair working week and the right to own land:

“Today we all enjoy the right to live exactly the way we want, yet we still don’t have the right to choose how we want to die if we’re faced with torture of a terminal disease. Fair go Australia.”

Francis told Crikey the ad did not promote or encourage suicide and instead was designed to provoke debate over law reform: “CAD have taken this completely out of context. One would not want to promote irrational suicide in any way, but the nation is already holding a conversation about the right of someone who is terminally ill to seek or obtain the method of a peaceful death.”

Francis wouldn’t be drawn on the total cost of the commercial, but he told Crikey it was similar to the $30,000 figure attributed to the Exit International ad. YourLastRight.com is not affiliated with Exit International but an alliance of state and territory euthanasia groups.

“We would like CAD to reconsider the decision, we think they have reached the wrong conclusion but in the meantime people can see the ad on our website,” he said.

CAD’s decision comes after the Greens recently vowed to introduce a private members’ bill into parliament that would allow the states to legalise euthanasia. In 1995 the Northern Territory legalised euthanasia but the Howard government introduced legislation to override it.

Peter Fray

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