Views & Reviews Review of the week

Rage against the dying of the light

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 09 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:305
  1. Richard Huxtable, deputy director/senior lecturer, Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol
  1. R.Huxtable{at}

    A film about the last days of an Alzheimer's patient has undeservedly been mired in bad publicity about a “faked” TV death, finds Richard Huxtable

    Although they are more familiar with subjecting other institutions—not least the NHS—to critical scrutiny, some broadcasters in the UK are currently at the unwelcome centre of national attention, amid allegations of unethical and deceptive practices. Such scrutiny is only proper. However, it is regrettable that the questions raised by this powerful and poignant documentary risk being obscured by reports that the film was falsely publicised as depicting the “passing away” of Malcolm Pointon, whose life with Alzheimer's it unflinchingly traces.

    We are first introduced to Malcolm in 1995, three years after he, alongside his wife Barbara, first learnt that the “silent physical buzzing” in his head marked the early onset of Alzheimer's, at the age of 51. In this film, a sequel to his 1999 documentary Malcolm and Barbara: A Love Story, the filmmaker Paul Watson was granted permission by the couple to document Malcolm's illness, through to his death earlier this …

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