How to get all of us to think about illness, dying, and death when we don't want to? Write a book, then make a film. Boston physician and author Atul Gawande wrote a best-seller, Being Mortal, about his professional and personal experiences with end-of-life decision-making. It was made into a film and has appeared on Frontline and across the internet. DHMC invites you to see the film on Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m in Auditorium H of the Medical Center in Lebanon NH. The screening is free.
It is an unforgettable documentary that is full of heart. Gawande is breathtakingly honest as he confronts the tension between his profession's seeming need to extend life at all monetary and emotional cost and his own sense that there has to be a better way of handling life at or near its end. How to do that effectively and humanely is the rub. Gawande consults with other doctors and with his own and others' patients to try to suss it all out. In the film clip above, he makes a startling confession about his own behavior while treating a 34 year-old patient with Stage 4 lung cancer. His endeavors quickly move beyond an academic exercise when he discovers that his own father is terminally ill.
The film introduces us to individual patients and their families as they try to decide how they wish to spend their final days, including what if any medical treatments they want to engage in or avoid. In the span of an hour, the audience shares a rare intimacy with these people as they progress through their journeys.
Geoffrey Shields, former president and dean of Vermont Law School in South Royalton VT, is one of the patients featured in the film. He died during the film's production. After Wednesday's screening at DHMC, Genie Shields, his wife and herself a participant in the film project, will be available to take questions along with Dr. Kathy Kirkland, DHMC's Chief of Palliative Medicine.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge