In the double-bill of Coronation Street episodes that will air on Monday, 20 January, one of the show’s most talked about storylines comes to a dramatic conclusion when cancer patient Hayley Cropper exercises her right to die with dignity and at a time and manner of her own choosing…
As we’ll see, Hayley – who’s played by Julie Hesmondhalgh – drinks a cocktail of drugs, and soon afterwards, she slips away as her husband Roy (David Neilson) cradles her.
However, in the final moments of her life, while determined not to implicate Roy in her suicide, Hayley plans everything, even instructing Roy not to touch the glass she’s about to drink from…
Stoic Hayley doesn’t waver in resolve to die, and even when Roy makes heartbreaking last minute pleas for her to change her mind, she tells him firmly that “it’s time.”
When Anna Windass, Fiz Stape and Carla Connor arrive at the flat later, they find a devastated Roy holding Hayley’s lifeless body as he contemplates an existence without his soulmate.
Ever since Hayley first told Roy about her plan to die by her own hand, the nation has been divided by the storyline, and subsequently, the Right to Die debate has once again been making headlines.
In coming weeks, both sides of the debate will be aired on the soap as Roy struggles to deal with the fact that Hayley committed suicide against his wishes. Fiz will react angrily to Hayley’s decision – and Anna and Roy’s silence on the matter – when she learns the truth.
Coronation Street Producer Stuart Blackburn has explained taking the brave decision to explore this difficult and controversial issue.
He said, “Hayley has been through such a lot in her lifem and is very concerned about losing control as the disease progresses.
“The palliative care Hayley receives is superb, but she’s scared and fears that pain relief could cause confusion and a loss of clarity.
“She feels taking control is the right thing for her to do.”
He added, “She’s concerned that she might regress back to being her former male self, Harold. She’s already had one such nightmare…
“So she came to the decision that she wanted to die in peace, to die with her clarity of thought still intact and most of all to die as Hayley – the identity she has spent her whole life fighting to be…
“Once she knew that she had a very short time left to live, she set about getting her life in order so that she could take control of her final moments before the illness rendered her incapable of doing so.
“This is a very sensitive issue and we will be exploring the effects of her decision on husband Roy, who has a huge emotional and moral dilemma over her choice to die this way.
“Not everyone will feel Hayley’s decision is the right one, and we fully respect this.
“For that reason we will be exploring both sides of the debate on screen.”
Meanwhile, Julie – who’s played the role of Hayley for 15 years – said that she could fully understand Hayley’s decision to end her life.
She explained, “I’m a member of the British Humanist Association, so I have quite strong views in favour of it, obviously with all the constraints that have to be carefully laid out to make sure it’s not abused.
“I think everybody who’s in favour of that bill will be at pains to say that as it’s so easily exploited and misused in the wrong hands…
“When you see the cases that have gone through, it’s hard not to be in favour of it. When you see people whose minds are extremely keen and alert but whose bodies have gone, it’s heart breaking.
“I wouldn’t want to live in that pain and anguish, or see my family and friends go through it.
“I’ve always really understood Hayley’s decision.”
Julie’s final episodes as Hayley will, as mentioned above, air on ITV at 7.30pm and 8.30pm on Monday January 20th. However, you’ll be able to see behind the scenes footage of her final scenes and an interview with Julie on www.itv.com/corrie at 9pm on the 20th.
For now, you can click here to read some of our interviews with the key cast members in this storyline, and here’s a preview of the moving moments when Hayley tells Roy that it’s time…