Film: Television, Films, Recorded lectures, etc.
Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America
Six stories of people nearing death and of family members of the recently deceased who have chosen nontraditional end-of-life options and remembrances, from celebrations of life and living wakes to green burials, extraterrestrial burials and more. Profoundly intimate, the film explores what it means to be near death, either from age or terminal illness, and captures the healing power of honoring, giving thanks, and staying true to loved ones who have passed away.
This is a beautiful, calm documentary about nontraditional endings or funerals. These six stories of new ways to die or celebrations of a life that’s ended are all very touching, but the medical aid-in-dying story, which is the longest, also gives the richest development of character and insight into the life of the dying person.
There are six approaches to death profiled in this documentary: Memorial Reef, A Living Wake, Green Burial, Space Burial, Medical Aid in Dying and A Celebration of Life.
Each of the six “alternate endings” is informative and emotional, with beautiful photography and music throughout.
Bob’s Choice: Why a Seattle Man Chose Death With Dignity
Bob’s Choice: Why a Seattle man chose death with dignity has won the Edward R. Murrow Award, a News & Documentary Emmy and the 2021 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.
Bob Fuller, 75, is a terminally ill, gay Catholic man who uses Washington’s Death with Dignity law to peacefully end his suffering from cancer. Charismatic and engaging, Bob is fortunate to have a large and diverse group of close friends who support his decision. The documentary is an authentic, realistic and empathetic story that follows Bob through the last two months of his life.
Lily (Susan Sarandon) and Paul (Sam Neill) summon loved ones to their beach house for one final gathering after Lily decides to end her long battle with ALS. A remake of the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart, It stars Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet and Sam Neill.
Lily and Paul, a physician, are an affluent couple living in a beautiful house. The film examines the interfamilial relationships and responses to Lily’s decision to take life-ending medicine before her disease causes further deterioration and she loses the ability to speak, swallow or breathe. While the film does not necessarily address the subject of legality and legal implications with enough scrutiny, which is unrealistic, it does a fair job of presenting kinds of discussions amongst families about the issue. Of course, there is the predictable dramatic augmentation and various subplots woven into the central narrative, but this does not detract from the overall messaging.
End Game weaves together three stories of visionary medical providers who practice on the cutting edge of life and death, helping to change the way we think about both: the palliative care team at UCSF Medical Center, the most sophisticated acute care hospital in Northern California; Zen Hospice Project, a Buddhist-inspired end-of-life residence in a classic San Francisco Victorian; and B.J. Miller, M.D., a physician who understands suffering firsthand (he lost three limbs in an accident when he was 19), and who has worked with both UCSF and Zen Hospice. For most people, the very words “hospice” and “palliative care” are nonstarters — code words for giving up. This core group of caregivers in San Francisco sees it differently. They are dedicated to relieving suffering, and to changing the way we think about — and make choices about — how we live our lives as we near life’s end. Their commitment is vividly embodied in their interactions with their terminally ill patients. These intimate and often highly charged emotional moments — with caregivers, patients and patients’ families and loved ones — are at the heart of End Game.
While this documentary is about death and dying, it does not address the concept of planning for the end-of-life, or the various options that are becoming more readily accessible. It provides alternative perspectives that may differ from the views of many supporters of Compassion & Choices, and the organization itself, which is not without value.
Anna, who is terminally ill, returns to Oregon to reconnect with her estranged brother while simultaneously making the heart-wrenching choice to end her life by accessing the Death with Dignity Act in the state. The film provides accurate and clear messaging surrounding the topic of medical aid in dying, incorporating the information seamlessly into a beautifully captured narrative of family struggles, love and acceptance.
Overall, it demonstrates the challenges that can be faced emotionally, not just for the terminally ill individual but also their loved ones, in making a decision to utilize medical aid in dying and also in facing the reality of imminent death due to illness.
How to Die in Oregon
How to Die in Oregon is an intimate, life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to provide an individual with a full range of end-of-life options. By filmmaker Peter Richardson.
An unlikely friendship between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpected emotional journey when the younger man is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Starring Ray Romano.
This low-key independent film’s heartwarming theme is unlikely friendship, in sickness and in health. Its biggest accomplishment is that it normalizes medical aid in dying as being simply another option at the end of life. On the other hand, it depicts the complexity of how choosing medical aid in dying can be both a blessed relief for the suffering person, but perhaps difficult for loved ones going on the journey with them. It displays great sensitivity and pathos along with comedic levity and gentleness that tempers the tragic nature of the subject matter.