Jackson’s death: ‘We hope to create debate’

Emmerdale producers Stuart Blackburn and Steve November talk to Soaplife about Jackson’s assisted suicide heartbreak…

Jackson’s fate was sealed in the split second that train smashed into his van. A man with everything to live for, the accident has left him feeling he has nothing to live for… and that assisted suicide is his only way out. Soaplife speaks to Series Producer Stuart Blackburn and Executive Producer Steve November about the show’s most controversial and heartbreaking storyline…

How would you summarise the build-up to this story?

“Hazel and Aaron have done everything they can to prove to Jackson that his disability need not be a barrier to living a full and active life. He goes to football, goes to the pub, takes a boat out to sea and even goes skydiving.”

But none of this changes Jackson’s view on his life, does it?

“No. Despite all their best efforts, Jackson decides this is not a life he wants to live. Jackson chooses to die and, given his disability, he is forced to ask the two people he loves the most to help him. It’s a decision that Hazel and Aaron only take after months of pleading and agonising and they take it only because they believe it is the one last ‘freedom’ Jackson has left. They believe they are committing the ultimate act of love.”

How have you approached the storyline?

“It’s a story that deals with serious issues: tetraplegia, living with a disability, the role and stresses faced by family carers, the right to life versus an individual’s right to a death of their choice. From the outset we recognised our responsibility not only to be truthful, honest and sensitive but to make sure we present a balanced and informed view. We have liaised with doctors, individuals, charities and organisations dealing with issues related to spinal injury and those supporting and opposing ‘the right to die’ debate. We believe we have – and will continue to – fully represent all sides with equal weight and integrity.”

What can viewers expect from the aftermath of Jackson’s death?

“For Hazel and especially Aaron this is only the start of their story. In the case of Aaron, his is a long and deeply moving journey to the tragic realisation that despite everything he had believed, he and Hazel have ultimately done the wrong thing at the wrong time. What Aaron comes to understand is that Jackson had a life worth living and should have been given – despite all his protestations – the time and space to understand this for himself.”

What reaction do you hope to achieve from viewers?

“We’re proud of the way we have tackled this story and it is our hope it will make people think about this sensitive issue. We hope the story will create a constructive debate and our audience will be challenged in a positive way. We have been in contact with the Samaritans – and their helpline will be available afterwards. We would urge anyone having similar thoughts to Jackson to seek support.”

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