Global TV mini-series 'Mary Kills People' have been criticized by the Catholic Women's League and the Council of Canadian with Disabilities for trivializing euthanasia. Photo courtesy of Corus Entertainment

Global TV's mini-series draws fire for dramatizing euthanasia

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  • February 5, 2017

OTTAWA – The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) have condemned the Global TV mini-series Mary Kills People about a doctor who illegally euthanizes consenting patients.

“A lot of our members are really concerned,” said CWL president Margaret Ann Jacobs. “I watched the trailer. It was appalling and really upsetting to me.”

According to Global TV, Mary Kills People features “an ER doctor (Dr. Mary Harris) who maintains a sideline within the hospital as an ‘angel of death,’ working outside the boundaries of the law to help terminally ill patients end their lives so they can go out on their own terms.”

In the first episode, the doctor’s attempt to euthanize a man with drugs fails and she finishes the deed by suffocating him with a pillow. Introduced to a second man who says he wants to die, she explains the process and tells him the cost is $10,000.

In a news release, the CWL encouraged its more than 82,000 members “to contact Global Television Network and request the removal of Mary Kills People from the television line up.”

“Death by any means is not glamourous and should not be portrayed as such,” said the release.

“Members are also encouraged to use this moment to discuss compassionate end-of-life options with loved ones, educate themselves about assisted suicide and pray for those who are considering taking their own lives.”

Amy Hasbrouck, director of Toujours Vivant/Not Dead Yet, a project of CCD, said her main concern about the Canadian six-part series, which began Jan. 25, is that “it’s making a hero out of someone who basically euthanizes people.”

“There’s no consideration of the possibility of palliative care; it’s dismissed out of hand,” said Hasbrouck. “The assumption is a terminal diagnosis inevitably leads to suffering, but the nature of the suffering is never discussed and the only alternative is euthanasia or assisted suicide.”

The CCD wrote Global TV a letter last fall, Hasbrouck said, raising concerns the series might violate CRTC’s Equitable Portrayal Code.

Under the CRTC’s guidelines, programs are “not supposed to discriminate against any group, or portray hatred against a particular group,” Hasbrouck said. “When people with disabilities are portrayed with the idea life with disability is a fate worse than death, that perpetuates a negative view of people with disabilities and that’s our principal concern.”

In a statement via email from a media spokesperson, Global TV defended the series as balanced.

“As a national broadcaster, we want to assure you that it is not our intention to promote or oppose any topic but rather to include varied and relevant content in our line-up that represents and engages our diverse audience,” the statement read. “While this fictional series does feature assisted dying, it does not sensationalize this controversial topic or encourage any one point of view. Mary Kills People is mindful to include various perspectives on the issue of assisted death, including those who do not agree with its practice.”

The statement also said that in the show, Dr. Harris, played by Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas, “ensures that she explores all the medical alternatives available to her patients. …. This is a sensitive topic and all storylines are depicted with the utmost respect and dignity.”

Jacobs, who received a version of the Global statement in response to her complaint, said she is “choosing not to support Global TV in this. My biggest concern is they are glamorizing something that isn’t glamorous.”

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