New Global Series Makes Hero of Euthanasia Doctor

Global TV will present a six-episode series called “Mary Kills People” beginning January 25 at 9 p.m.  The series, which was picked up by Lifetime in the United States, revolves around the fictional Dr. Mary Harris.  According to Global TV, Harris is “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.  We are concerned that the program will fail to differentiate between people with chronic disabilities and those with “terminal illness”, as often happens in public discussions of end-of-life care.  We worry that this “entertainment” will not address the socio-economic vulnerability of people who are considering euthanasia, nor deal with public policy questions such as access to palliative care and home-based services to prevent institutionalization.

We are also especially concerned about the “better dead than disabled” message that is so common in fictional portrayals of euthanasia and assisted suicide, such as “Me Before You,” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

Earlier this fall, CCD wrote to Corus Entertainment, Global’s parent company, to express our concerns about the upcoming show.  Global’s response stated that it abides by the CRTC’s Equitable Portrayal Code and does not “negatively portray, stereotype or stigmatize anyone with respect to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender or physical or mental disability.“  The letter further states that “it would be premature to make any judgment calls of how the series may treat any particular case or in fact view point.”

The CRTC’s Equitable Portrayal Code states in part: “[B]roadcasters shall refrain from airing unduly negative portrayals of persons with respect to … physical or mental disability. Negative portrayal can take many different forms, including (but not limited to) stereotyping, stigmatization and victimization, … degrading material, and exploitation.”  Broadcasters may include otherwise prohibited material in certain contextual circumstances such as “…c) Intellectual treatment: Programming apparently for … artistic, … purposes, or otherwise in the public interest, may be broadcast, provided that it: is not abusive or unduly discriminatory; does not incite contempt for, or severely ridicule, an enumerated group; and is not likely to incite or perpetuate hatred against an enumerated group.”

The Equitable Portrayal Code can be found at the following link:

It is up to disability rights activists to watch and determine whether “Mary Kills People” negatively portrays disability and whether it “incites contempt for” or “perpetuates hatred against” disabled people.

Amy Hasbrouck