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Catholic Women’s League and Council of Canadians with Disabilities condemn TV series

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) have both condemned the Global TV series Mary Kills People that seems to glamorize euthanasia.

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

“Death by any means is not glamorous and should not be portrayed as such,” said a news release by the League on behalf of the executive representing more than 82,000 members. “League sisters are encouraged to contact Global Television Network and request the removal of Mary Kills People from the television lineup.”

“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,” the CWL said.

The mini-series, which began Jan. 25, also alarms the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

“My main concern is that it’s making a hero out of someone who basically euthanizes people,” said Amy Hasbrouck, director of Toujours Vivant Not Dead Yet, a project of CCD.

“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,” she said.

“As soon as disability is going to be portrayed, (it will convey) the assumption life with a disability is a fate worse than death,” Hasbrouck said.

According to Global TV, Mary Kills People features “an ER doctor 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.”

“CCD is worried that celebrating a euthanasia doctor as the hero of the drama is meant to portray euthanasia as a desirable response to disability and terminal illness, and is nothing short of propaganda,” said a Jan. 24 CCD release. “We are also especially concerned that Mary Kills People will advance the ‘better dead than disabled’ message so common in fictional portrayals of euthanasia and assisted suicide, such as Me Before You, and Million Dollar Baby.

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 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 lineup that represents and engages our diverse audience,” Global TV said. “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.”

Mary Kills People “does not encourage one point of view,” the statement said. “It is ultimately centred around the character of Dr. Mary Harris, a dedicated ER doctor who believes in doing everything she can to save lives.”

“Dr. Harris ensures that she explores all the medical alternatives available to her patients,” Global TV said. “Once she has exhausted these options, she respects the wishes of those who have made the decision to end their lives. These characters all have their own unique stories and reasons for reaching this decision, but none are treated lightly. This is a sensitive topic and all storylines are depicted with the utmost respect and dignity.”

Jacobs said she received a version of this statement in response to her complaint to Global TV.

“I am choosing not to support Global TV in this,” the CWL president said. “My biggest concern is they are glamorizing something that isn’t glamorous.”

Jacobs said good palliative care is the answer to providing care for people who are dying.

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