The daughter of Tony Nicklinson has welcomed the support of Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh whose character kills herself because she fears a painful death.
Mr Nicklinson's family will watch the soap on Monday when Hayley Cropper takes an overdose, months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Although Hayley takes the overdose herself, her screen husband Roy does not share her views and in recent weeks the storyline has mirrored the divisions in the assisted suicide debate.
After filming the final scene, Ms Hesmondhalgh said Mr Nicklinson had helped shape her belief that assisted suicide should be legalised.
Mr Nicklinson, 58, from Melksham, was unable to kill himself because he was paralysed from the neck down after a stroke but died from ill health shortly after losing his High Court battle for the right to die.
Ms Hesmondhalgh, a Humanist, said she would like to see assisted suicide legalised providing it was "properly done" with safeguards to protect vulnerable people. "But I can't imagine how anyone can look at the Tony Nicklinson case and see his suffering and be against it," said the 43-year-old mother of one. "It's quite a simple thing for me – and I understand it isn't for everybody – but we need to look at this issue seriously."
In the wake of the Coronation Street storyline, a poll for The Sun newspaper found that almost three-quarters of Britons believe terminally ill patients should have the right to end their suffering.
Mr Nicklinson's family are waiting for a final judgement from the Supreme Court, and daughter Lauren, 26, said the family had been heartened by the actress's support.
"The actress who plays Hayley has referenced dad quite a lot in interviews, which has given us a lot of publicity," she said. "I think that's because she's a Humanist and believes in it on a personal level, not just as a character. Her character is terminally ill which dad wasn't, and although they've not gone as far as we'd have liked, our case is more about voluntary euthanasia, it's a step in the right direction. It'll touch a lot of lives and give people something to think about. We'll watch it. It may bring up some tough memories but it'll be good to see the issue given such prominence on TV and it'll encourage millions of people to think about the decision she made."
Keiran Roberts, Coronation Street's executive producer, said: "We're not an issue-based show but sometimes a story will highlight an issue and this is such a case."
The star joined Coronation Street in 1998 to play the soap's first transsexual and won viewers' hearts with her on-screen romance with cafe owner Roy. In real life she is married to writer and actor Ian Kershaw and gave birth to daughter Martha Mo in 2001.