The other night we watched an HBO movie from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, How to Die in Oregon.
The online film promo accurately sums up the film:
From its opening scene, where a terminally ill cancer patient takes a lethal dose of Seconal and literally dies on camera, it becomes shockingly clear that How to Die in Oregon is a special film. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. As a result, any individual whom two physicians diagnose as having less than six months to live can lawfully request a fatal dose of barbiturate to end his or her life. Since 1994, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands…filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether—and when—to end their lives by lethal overdose. Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. What emerges is a life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to die with dignity.
This powerful and provocative movie invites many avenues of discussion. The one we want to focus on here is our tolerance for dissenting points of view.
Everyone is not comfortable with giving a terminally ill patient the right to decide when to end life. Of course, those who disagree are not required to take advantage of this option, ever. Nor can a patient who is not competent have the decision to end life made by another. One popular argument against the Oregon law is that we cannot take such matters into our hands. Does this seem to you to be undercut by our readiness to thwart death with technology and toxic chemicals – certainly, decisions we take into our own hands?
Y Collaborative is sympathetic to those who do not find that end-of-life pain and suffering give added value to our lives. Please let us hear from those who are comfortable with the position that everyone must accept whatever physical and emotional suffering illness brings upon us.
Wherever you are on this issue, we encourage you see this film and consider discussing it with family and/or friends.
If you want more information, visit the website for Compassion & Choices, www.compassionandchoices.org, an organization that devotes itself to creativelegal and legislative initiatives to secure comprehensive and compassionateoptions at the end of life.
This blog was posted by Susan A. Lieberman, Ph.D. www.susanlieberman.com. Susan is the author of Death, Dying and Dessert. Reflections on Twenty Questions About Dying and Getting Older Is A Full Time Job: Moving on From a Life of Working Hard. Both books can be purchased from this Y Collaborative website under OUR BOOKS.