Bioethics News

Calling Hollywood: have we got a script for you!

Liz Van Note acquitted   

Amongst the exiguous collateral benefits of the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia are scripts for B-grade Hollywood films and TV dramas. On cable TV in Canada and the US “Mary Kills People” is currently being screened. This being is billed as “a provocative six-episode dark comedic drama series” about an ER doctor who illegally moonlights as an “angel of death” for the terminally ill.

But the best plots come from real life. This one from Missouri shows how family quarrels, criminal weaknesses and money intersect in advance directives.

Susan “Liz” Van Note has been found innocent of the murders of her father, William Van Note, and his partner, Sharon Dickson in 2010. They were shot and stabbed to death at their home. Ms Dickson died at the scene; Mr Van Note was unconscious and taken to hospital. Liz Van Note was described in the media as a lawyer specialising in end-of-life issues. She was also the executor of her father’s estate. At the hospital she produced a durable power of attorney which in which he had declared that life support should be turned off after four days. She insisted, the doctors complied and he died.

At the trial it emerged that Mr Van Note’s estate was worth about US$8 million and that he had left the bulk of it to Ms Dickson, to the consternation of his daughter, who was in serious financial difficulties. The defence attorney pinned the the murder on a mysterious man who was unable to repay a debt of $600,000 to Mr Van Note.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.