The Trouble with Dying


The Trouble with DyingFriday, February 6th, 2015, The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the existing law pertaining to doctor assisted dying. The Government of Canada now has one year to develop new legislation. This documentary is part of what led up to the Supreme Court decision.

UPDATE: On January 15, 2016 the Supreme Court gave the Government of Canada a four month extension on the original Feb. 6, 2016 deadline to pass legislation. Read more here.

For over 20 years, Canadian citizens and courts have been engaged in a profound and divisive debate surrounding one of the most important moments in an individual’s life – the moment that it ends. In The Trouble with Dying, each side of the argument over the right to choose the time and manner of one’s death weigh in on both the dangers and benefits of medically assisted dying, and the many ethical considerations that the concept entails. Produced and released by Toronto’s Holgate Production House, the program offers an independent and thought-provoking take on an issue that has only begun to unfold on the national stage.

While the intersection of human rights, healthcare, and opposing ideologies is clear in the most public demonstrations on the subject, this one-hour documentary explores the very personal implications that it has on those living with chronic illnesses. Their words and experiences offer resonant support to the ongoing battle for the decriminalization of an act that many characterize as essentially humane and compassionate.

Goldhawk Fights Back with Dale Goldhawk

LISTEN to Goldhawk Fights Back on AM740 ZoomerRadio for a thought-provoking and informative interview conducted on Aug. 20, 2014 with Dr. James Downar, a Critical Care and Palliative Care Staff Physician at the Toronto General Hospital and Co-chair of Dying With Dignity Canada‘s Advisory Council of Physicians as he comments on a Canadian Medical Association vote that favours, at least in principle, assisted dying.

READ: “Supreme Court Rules on Doctor-Assisted Suicide”


WATCH: Wanda Morris, Exec. Dir. of Dying With Dignity, delivers a passionate talk on the realities of end-of-life choices at ideacity 2012.


READ: “New Documentary Opens Conversation About Death” – A review by The Globe and Mail’s John Doyle.


READ: “Canadians wrestle with agonizing questions about the end of life” by Catherine Thompson, Kitchener Waterloo Record

After being diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer, Cindy Cowan wants the right to choose how she is going to die.

Linda Jarrett has suffered from multiple sclerosis for over 15 years. She is investigating the options for ending her life, before her degenerative disease makes it impossible for her to act on her own.

The Trouble With Dying: Cindy Cowan returns to hospital with complicationsThe Trouble With Dying: Linda Jarrett speaks about living with Multiple Sclerosis and her beliefs about dying

Currently, medically assisted dying is illegal in Canada. And while some advocates, such as Dr. Richard MacDonald believe offering terminal patients help in ending their lives is the compassionate thing to do, opponents such as Professor Margaret Sommerville believe the medical system must uphold respect for all human life.

The issues surrounding the right-to-die debate are further coming to a head since Québec introduced legislation in 2013 that would allow for medically assisted dying in some cases.

Cindy and Linda examine the options available to them, confronting their own mortality in the process.

The program also highlights the very real legal dangers involved for the loved ones and caregivers of those suffering from various diseases. With a conviction for assisting in a patient or family member’s death carrying with it a potential 14-year prison sentence, an atmosphere of fear and secrecy has predictably arisen. However, as most advocates for legalization will tell you, the law hasn’t prevented cases of assisted dying occurring behind closed doors – it has only veiled its processes in an ambiguous and secretive language, making for a treacherous and altogether more dangerous environment than if the practice were legalized.

The Trouble With Dying: Grace Pastine, Litigation Director, BC Civil Liberties Union, in press scrumThe Trouble With Dying: elderly gentleman being cared for

On the other side of the coin, The Trouble with Dying also looks at the concerns of those who say the legalization of medically assisted dying is a step down a slippery slope, and gives doctors a frightening amount of power. With the issue continuing to generate debate, in government and op-ed sections across the country, the complicated questions at its heart will only become more prevalent in the months and years to come. This documentary offers an intelligent and poignant introduction to a conversation that is shaping Canada’s legal, political and medical landscapes, and invites viewers to formulate or assess their own beliefs in the process.


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