Is Mary Kills People Based On A True Story?

Photo: Christos Kalohoridis.
There’s a new dark soap on the Lifetime block in the form of Mary Kills People. The Canadian import follows Dr. Mary Harris (Caroline Dhavernas), a medical professional who moonlights as a physician-assisted death practitioner for the terminally ill. While a description that grim doesn’t usually sound like something you wouldn't expect to see sandwiched between melodramatic Lifetime movies and Dance Moms, the Canadian import falls right in line with the likes of summer series UnReal.
Like with all the Bachelor and UnReal similarities, it’s hard not to think about all the real-life arrests associated with Mary’s less-than-legal activities. So, is Mary Kills based on a real doctor in the same way we can find actual Quinns, Rachels, and Jeremys manipulating Bachelor Nation?
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As with many other frighteningly realistic shows, the verdict is sorta.
Mary Kills People isn't inspired by a true story of medical-assisted death, but many other doctors have been accused of the crime. Dr. Jack Kevorkian first made headlines in the '90s for helping with the physician-assisted death of over 100 sick patients, garnering the nickname Dr. Death. The medical professional was convicted of second degree murder and spent eight years in prison.
But, Dr. Kevorkian, who died in 2011, had a very similar outlook on physician-assisted death as Lifetime’s Mary does. “My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience,” he told the New York Times in 1990. On Mary Kills, the eponymous euthanasia advocate helps her patients pass with a literal cocktail of the deadly sodium pentobarbital and champagne. The moment Mary’s patients take their own lives is an actual celebration.
Over the years other doctors have faced consequences for following the same road as Dr. Kevorkian, including one Maryland doctor who lost his medical license in 2014. A group of doctors were also arrested in 2009, as was a Canadian doctor in 1998. Yet, Mary Kills People comes at the exact time Canada is rethinking these punishments.
Canada recently approved a law to allow those with incurable diseases or rapidly declining heath to commit doctor-assisted suicide with regulations. Since Mary Kills is filmed and set in Canada, the law is technically a game-changer since it’s main character is no longer an outlaw in the real world.
“I thought the subject matter was really important and interesting, and I think it’s a social debate we should have more often,” star Caroline Dhavernas tells TVLine.com, adding the new legislation “was a bit of a coincidence, because Tara Armstrong, our writer, wrote it this way before the law was changed.”
Only time will tell if these real-life changes influence our new favorite TV soap. Although, we have to admit, Mary Helps People Die In A State-Sponsored Fashion doesn't have the same ring to it.
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