How to Die in Oregon ~ (USA, 2011) ~ DVD

This is a sobering documentary about the Death With Dignity laws in Oregon, which allows people to do just that: To die with dignity and at the time and place of their own choosing. This is “physician assisted suicide” which is the political equivalent of “pro-abortion”. Doctors do not (a la Jack Kevorkian) assist terminally ill patients with their own death,  except for the prescription of drugs which are necessary to effect the desired outcome. Doctors lay out prognosis and treatment or palliative care options like anywhere else. The only difference here is that doctors can prescribe drugs that can assist the patient in ending their own life when the quality of that life has become intolerable. Intolerable is left to the definition of the terminally ill patient who is suffering. This is a humane look at the process of dying.

The documentary by Peter Richardson explores a few examples of patients who have used the laws, and one example of a Washington state woman who promised her husband she would dedicate herself to passage of a similar statute in Washington after he did not have the option available to him at the time of his excruciating death. During the course of the filming it is passed on a ballot initiative in Washington, making two states that have the option codified in law.  Massachusetts and Vermont are have initiatives in place, and they may be the next two states to adopt such a law.

The patient that the camera follows mostly though is Cody, a graceful, lovely woman who is dying of liver cancer. She lives a lot longer than it was initially expected, and when she does pass on it is with a mix of sadness and joy that she is surrounded by her family, and the doctor who she has formed a close mutual bond with. This is a powerful, wrenching film that bears watching. It’s hard to watch, but it should be done.

How to Die in Oregon

Death with Dignity National Center

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