Saturday, July 2, 2011

How to Die in Oregon

2011, 107m

Physician assisted suicide became legal in the American state of Oregon in 1994. Such a law already exists in three European countries.The documentary examines the working of the law and the experience of some patients who chose this route out of their suffering. The main focus of the film is on Cody Curtis, a middle aged woman stricken with liver cancer. The film mainly consists of interviews of patients, doctors and family members, and the travails, sorrows and emotional upheavals on the route from taking the decision to it's final implementation. It is a story made up of tears, courage and laced with much humor, black or white, as for example when one person describes the taste of his dispensation, for posterity's benefit, as "woody". This is a film which may disturb, but which can hardly be devoid of interest to anyone subject to the law of mortality.

Suicide has always been with us, for all the moral and legal sanctions attached to it. Death is scary, but life being painful as it is, one suspects that what keeps a lot people from doing oneself in is the ignorance or unavailabity of the means and the messiness of the whole business. Not least of it's attractions is the economy it effects, which may positively dispose those miserly inclined. An intelligent person contemplating it may yet make it his study. But with the mushrooming of legislation like this making it a graduated painless reversible choice under the supervision of the best that medical  science has to offer, it's popularity could well increase. Five hundred Oregonians have already benefited from the law.

One of the fundamental features of life, the very foundation stone of philosophy, are the uncertainties attached to death. By reducing, if not eliminating, these, the way we view life alters considerably. As such, this may be the ultimate luxury, or trip, that science can offer. If, that is, convenience and comfort is what you seek.

One must hasten to add that the benefit of the Death with Dignity Law is only available to terminal cases and circumscribed by other stringent conditions, making it's use as a convenient escape route difficult, if not impossible. From the back of Jack Kevorkian's Volkswagon, to the gleaming interiors of hospitals, and reassuring no nonsense practitioners, is a long way.

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