End-of-life decisions Canadians face go beyond assisted suicide debate

CBC Television producer Lynn Burgess talks about some of the personal stories that make up Last Right, The National's documentary series on assisted suicide, which begins airing tonight.

CBC producer shares personal stories from the filming of Last Right, The National's series on assisted suicide

In this excerpt from the documentary Last Right, Harriet Scott explains how her mother's death helped shape her views on assisted suicide. 1:54

Six months ago, when I started working on Last Right, The National's documentary series on assisted suicide, which begins airing on CBC-TV tonight, I sensed a profound public fatigue with the right-to-die issue in Canada.  

For those in the trenches — on both sides of the debate — the commitment to the cause had never waned. But the issues hadn't changed either, and the public was tired of hearing about it.

Where to watch

Last Right begins airing on The National on CBC-TV's News Network at 9 p.m. ET Monday and again at 10 p.m. nationwide on CBC's main network.

And so, a decision was made at The National not to debate the issue again but to bring to our audience the stories of Canadians and the end-of-life decisions they face. You can watch those stories on The National and read about them online, but it's the moments that happened when the camera wasn't rolling that will stay with me.

Like the time I called Harriet Scott last May. I knew Harriet was dying of liver cancer and had been given anywhere from one week to two months to live. I was acutely aware that letting us document her final days would chew up some of the remaining time she had left. I offered to do something short, say, in the five-minute range. 

"No," said Harriet, drolly. "I think I'm good for something longer than that."

Share your thoughts on series on our blog

Tonight's instalment of Last Right follows Harriet during the last two months of her life. Harriet was both ordinary and extraordinary, and while we know you may not always agree with her opinions, she will no doubt make you think. Share your reaction to her story on the CBC News Community blog.

There was also the time I was interviewing a doctor when he asked us to stop recording for a moment so he could gather his thoughts. He needed to decide whether he was prepared to "come out of the closet" on the right to die issue. He did.

Last Right blog

Tell uswhat you think about the series.

Or the moment when Sandy, a 49-year-old photographer dying of Erdheim-Chester disease, casually mentioned on the phone that her general practitioner had just broken a couple of her ribs during a gentle check-up. 

I know for those opposed to the idea of assisted suicide, feelings run deep. Their opinions are not merely a rote recitation of long-held beliefs but rather a deeply felt fear that real harm could come to our society's most vulnerable. Those fears are real — but what we're hearing this week from Canadians posting on the Community blog is that we can figure this out together. 

I hope we can keep that conversation going in the coming weeks.


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