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photo Live and Let Go
An American Death
By Jay Niver & Jay Spain

When 76-year-old Sam Niver learned that his prostate cancer was terminal, the last thing he wanted was to die in the hospital, as his wife had recently done. Fiercely independent, he wanted to die as he had lived his life — on his own terms. In constant pain, and tired of a seemingly endless round of drug and radiation treatments, Sam did his research, made his own plans, approved his obituary, and asked his son Jay to document his final days. The resulting film is a moving tribute to a life lived well and ended with dignity.

Sam Niver was a proud World War II veteran; a hometown newspaperman and civic leader; a loving husband, father, and friend. Having decided to take his own life, he was careful to explain the decision not only to his family but also to the world, through the press and through this film. Jay and his sister, Gretchen, supported Sam's decision, and, when he told them he would have a friend sit with him at the end, they insisted on being the ones to share his final moments. Another son chose not to participate.

Issues related to assisted suicide, or the more general questions surrounding an individual's right to choose a death with dignity, are being hotly debated today in our legislatures, by our civic and religious organizations — and at the family dinner table. Live and Let Go offers a powerful and provocative context for such discussions. Discussion leaders should be aware that the scene in which Sam takes his life, using sedative drugs in a method advocated by the Hemlock Society, is quite peaceful but may be difficult for some viewers to watch.

56 minutes
© 2002
Purchase $229 DVD
Order No. QA-381
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-986-X
close captioned

"Heartfelt (though never maudlin), thoughtful, and honest...Sure to be an excellent discussion starter about end-of-life issues and euthanasia. Highly recommended." Video Librarian

"Powerful. An eloquent approach to a hot-button subject, it deserves to be seen and discussed." Winston-Salem Journal

"We owe it to those in similar situations to witness this powerful, unflinching and above all heartfelt cinematic testimony. Bring a handkerchief and an open mind." L.A. Weekly

"Riveting, unsettling, and portrayed with unflinching honesty." Twin Cities Star Tribune

"Presents a nice case study sure to lead to discussion about the many issues surrounding assisted suicide." Educational Media Reviews

"Personalizes the politics and slogans of end-of-life issues in a compelling family narrative appropriate for mature audiences. " The Gerontologist

Awards & Conference Screenings
World Premiere, DancesWithFilms, Los Angeles
Best Documentary, Asheville Film Festival
Gold Award and "Best of Show" nominee
Health and Science Communications Assn.
American Society on Aging
Northampton Independent Film Festival
Tiburon International Film Festival
RiverRun International Film Festival
Greenwich Film Festival
World Conference on Assisted Dying
New York Hemlock Society
Bronze 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 Way Home: This moving documentary introduces a variety of elders who are trying to find the best possible living situation for themselves or for their loved ones during their "golden years."

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.

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.

Self Deliverance: This unflinching portrait was filmed in Australia's Northern Territory, where Parliament was debating the world's first legislation guaranteeing terminally ill people the right to a physician-assisted death. It includes articulate testimony from physicians on both sides of this controversial issue, but its primary focus is on one courageous man's determination to confront death in his own way.

The Choice of a Lifetime: The disturbing but ultimately inspiring stories of six people, 21 to 73 and from a variety of backgrounds, who stepped back from the brink of suicide.


Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Study Guide

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website