By Fernand Melgar and Jean-Marc Henchoz
No one knows the day or hour of one's death, and most of us hope ours will be quick and painless. But when incurable illness strikes—accompanied by extreme pain, physical incapacity, and reduced quality of life—one is confronted with difficult questions about how to spare oneself, as well as family members and loved ones, the long, slow, drawn-out agony of our ultimate demise. Social taboos about death have generated legal, medical, and ethical prohibitions against voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
Switzerland is presently the only country in the world where suicide assistance is legal. Exit: The Right to Die profiles that nation's EXIT organization, which for over twenty years has provided volunteers who counsel and accompany the terminally-ill and severely handicapped towards a death of their choice. The film reveals intimate conversations between terminally-ill patients, family members and EXIT escorts, visits an annual membership meeting, an international conference, an EXIT staff meeting and frank conversations between its volunteers about the personal emotional toll of their work.
Exit also profiles several of the organization's officers as well as its members, and follows one incurable woman's dilemma to its emotionally devastating conclusion, witnessing the deliberate and exacting discussions between doctor and patient leading up to a final decision, and the medical procedures involved in her "self-deliverance." This remarkable documentary illuminates the many sensitive issues surrounding this controversial social issue, and, in chronicling several real-life stories, confronts us with the question: Why, when necessary, shouldn't one have the right to choose the means and time of one's own death?
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" * * * ½ [3.5 stars]! Highly Recommended! Serenely paced... this poignant, thought-provoking film endows [the issues] with a powerful human dimension." Video Librarian
"A clear-eyed study, which details [an] innovative approach to helping citizens die in a manner of their own choosing." The New York Sun
"Steely and compassionate." Dennis Lim, The New York Times
"Powerful and poignant! Exit confronts the viewer, head-on, with their own mortality. A landmark reference in the humanitarian fight for individual human rights, self-determination and self-deliverance." Leonardo Reviews
"Explores a taboo topic while remaining respectful of the people it depicts. A compassionate and edifying movie." NJ Star Ledger
"The humane, direct approach says much more about the fraught issue than any political speech ever could." New York Magazine
"Highly Recommended!" Educational Media Reviews Online
"Highly recommended for academic and public libraries." Library Journal
Awards & Conference Screenings
American Psychological Association Convention, 2007
Swiss Cinema Awards, Best Documentary, 2006
Namur International Film Festival, Best Documentary, 2005
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, 2006
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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.
Mortal Lessons: Follows the stories of two extraordinary women, diagnosed with end stage cancer, who are facing death head on, determined to lead richer, more rewarding lives in the time that they have. Threaded through their narratives are the perspectives of hospice workers, funeral directors, bereavement counselors and others who deal with death on a daily basis.
The Vanishing Line: Chronicles one physician's exploration of how to try and meet the needs of the dying and their families.
Pioneers of Hospice: Explores the development of hospice and palliative care, focusing on the legacy of the founders of the modern hospice movement: Dame Cicely Saunders, Florence Wald, the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Balfour Mount.
Live and Let Go: Faced with terminal cancer, 76-year-old Sam Niver chooses to die with dignity and on his own terms. This will be a moving and provocative trigger for discussions of assisted suicide.
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.
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.
To Live Until I Die: Most Americans die in the hospital, often alone and in pain. These six terminally ill individuals are facing what lies ahead with anger, humor, insight, and honesty determined to have a "good death."