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photo To Live Until I Die
By Jay Shefsky
for WTTW, Chicago

Today in America, most people die in the hospital, many of them alone and in pain. To Live Until I Die follows six remarkable individuals who have chosen to spend their last days differently. All have terminal illnesses, yet all are squarely facing what lies ahead with humor and insight, anger and honesty — and are determined to have what they consider a "good death."

Producer Jay Shefsky helped to care for his wife's father in their home. After his father-in-law's death, Shefsky was inspired to seek out other people who are making positive choices about the end of their lives. His exploration becomes our own, as we are introduced to these uncommonly open people, their families, and the professionals who care for them.

Miles Eddy, 58, has fought off lung cancer for five years. When it spread to his brain his doctors gave him six months to live. A year later he expresses no interest in the doctors' predictions or in their "extraordinary measures." "If I'm going to die," he proclaims, "let me die at the kitchen table or whatever, and let it be over."

Phyllis Weiner has been told that chemotherapy might extend her life, but will not eliminate her ovarian cancer. Miserable from side effects, she decides that another round is not worth it. But that doesn't mean that she will lie around and wait to die. "Either you give up or you go on," she says, "I feel better when I'm out doing things."

Inge Rimpel has severe emphysema, but she is fed up with the daily treatments, the loneliness, and waiting for the inevitable. The 85-year-old German immigrant says, "Our time is up. We had good days, we had bad days, we lived our life. Let the next generation come."

Florence Lee has been cared for by her husband, J.C., throughout her cancer, but he has recently found it more than he can handle. They check Florence into their hospice program's inpatient unit for a few days, to stabilize her medical condition and give J.C. a rest.

Bob Sohn is also in an inpatient unit, and is unconscious most of the time. His second wife of only a few years, Marlene, is trying to come to terms with Bob's impending death, and find a way to say goodbye.

Leo Isaac has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, but it hasn't dampened his quick humor. Leo now faces a critical and complex decision: should he allow an intervention that would keep him alive long enough to, as he says, turn him into a "vegetable."

58 minutes
© 1999
Purchase $229 DVD
Order No. QA-375
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-870-7

Reviews
"A jewel among documentaries about life's end. Within moments I felt as if I knew personally each of the individuals whose touching stories comprise this film. A unique window into the rich and poignant time of living we call dying." Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Well

"Beautifully captures the needs of hospice patients and the essence of hospice care. The impact of viewing it in a group is incredible." Jan Durham, LCSW, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator

"Both sensitive and informational, it has been extremely valuable in training volunteers for our local hospice." Rae Horwitz, LCSW, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator

"Highly Recommended for academic health sciences, psychology, and death and dying collections. Shefsky has masterfully introduced six different patients with different outlooks on life and death to create a solid overview of hospice." Educational Media Reviews


Awards & Conference Screenings
CINE Golden Eagle
Gold Award, Mature Media Awards

Related Films
Death on Request: Controversial documentary records the last days — and actual death — of a Dutch man who chose euthanasia to end his suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Mademoiselle and the Doctor: Lisette Nigot seems an unlikely candidate for euthanasia. At 79, she is in good health, feels no pain, and does not seem depressed. But she says she sees no reason to continue living. And Dr. Philip Nitschke is willing to help her.

A Family Undertaking: Profiles the home funeral movement, and the complex psychological, cultural, legal and financial issues surrounding the growing trend of families choosing to prepare loved ones at home for burial or cremation.

The Journey Home: The candid stories of five patients exemplify the unique gifts of hope, relief, and dignity that hospice care programs offer to thousands of terminally ill patients each year.

Discussing Advance Directives: A nursing team and physician meet to discuss the difficulties they encounter in working with patients on advance directives. Part of the Caring at the End of Life series.

More than a Failing Heart: Family members describe examples of the best of end-of-life care, and of the worst, and reveal how competent and compassionate physicians and nurses can change the end-of-life experience.

Still Life: Explores the emotional relationship between medical students in anatomy courses and the cadavers which make it possible for them to learn about the human body. The film includes a discussion of body donation.

Caring at the End of Life: Based on six case studies of seriously ill hospitalized patients, this moving film focuses on the key roles of nursing staff in improving patient-clinician communication in end-of-life care.


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