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34 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A Very Humane Study of Physician-Assisted Suicide

Author: JustCuriosity from Austin, TX, United States
15 March 2011

How to Die in Oregon was screened at Austin's SXSW Film Festival where it was very warmly received. This is a powerful, intimate film that closely examines the process of death and how it is carried out in the first state in the nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide, which Oregon did when it passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1994. Director Peter Richardson spent four years on this film which is tender and moving as it profiles several people in the process of contemplating their own mortality and seeking a means by which they can gain control over their own deaths.

The film is difficult to watch at times because it touches on the raw nerve of dying. While the film is clearly sympathetic to the agenda of those seeking to expand access to physician-assisted suicide, it is not, by-and-large, about the political debate. While one section does focus on a widow in Washington state working on a Death with Dignity referendum to fulfill her husband's last wish, even that section is really about her husband's death and her effort to achieve closure. This is mostly a narrative of the human pain of the dying process and the struggle to gain control by deciding how and when to choose one's own death.

The filmmaker does a wonderful job of presenting the case studies, particularly of the central story about liver cancer patient Cody Curtis and her family. Her story forms the backbone of the film and its emotional heart. Richardson manages to present extremely intimate picture that will allow many people to confront and deal with this extremely difficult issue. Our society has not yet figured out how to deal with this extremely difficult issue and films like this are extremely powerful tools for allowing us to begin to have that much-needed conversation.

The film is expected to run on HBO in the near future.

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18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Hard to Watch But Impossible to Forget

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
2 November 2011

How to Die in Oregon (2011)

**** (out of 4)

This emotionally draining documentary talks about the 1994 Death with Dignity law that was passed in Oregon, which allows people the choice to pick when they want to die. The documentary talks with several people who have decided to share their stories, which has most of them dealing with a terminal illness that has no cure. The question becomes if they want to spend the last few months of their lives in pain or if they would prefer to end their lives through physician-assisted suicide. The topic of this has been a hot debate item for a very long time but thankfully director Peter Richardson doesn't try to turn this film into some sort of political debate. I think the film is a very honest and open look at all sides of the debate but thankfully we never get to any childish bickering between the sides. I had read a few reviews of this film and it one said that you'd be crying within the first five minutes of the picture and there's no question that these opening moments are some of the hardest I've had to watch. We basically see a man surrounded by his family getting ready to die, which to me leads to some of the most honest moments where you the viewer have to ask yourself what you would do. What would you say to your loved ones in the final minutes of your life? Would there be a final word that you'd want to get out? We also follow another woman, Cody, who is suffering from cancer and she's given six months to life but keeps the pills it takes to end her life is she decides to. Her issue is not knowing when to say she's had enough or if she'll know the moment when she wants to die. We follow her as her case gets better but then takes a drastic and fast turn. We also see things from the other side, which is a man whose health insurance says they won't pay for him to try and fight for life yet they will pay for him to end his life. All of these stories are just emotionally draining and although this film is a masterpiece, it's easy to see why it's appeal would be quite limited. I can sit here and say that the people here are inspirational and I can say that the director handles everything with such dignity and class but in the end the viewer is really going to have to ask themselves if they want to sit through watching people die. As depressing as some of these stories are, at the same time they are quite uplifting seeing people appreciate the life they do have and the importance of having people you love around you. HOW TO DIE IN OREGON is a very powerful, extremely well-made picture that is certainly worth viewing if you can put up with the graphic drama.

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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Bleak and harsh face the facts film about death, it makes you be thankful for the life you have.

Author: Danny Blankenship from Petersburg, Virginia
26 May 2011

Just watched this HBO documentary and I must say it opened up my eyes and even made me tear up a little bit. It's a fact of life everyone must face we will die and as shown many of us could be a terminal ill person like the folks portrayed in the film. Featuring real life cases in Oregon the first U.S. state to pass legalized physician assisted suicide in 1994 we see it's the best choice for many as it's better to go than suffer. Most eye opening is the case of liver cancer patient Cody Curtis a brave woman who fought to the end, but saw dying with dignity is best.

One uplifting part of the film is seeing the 2008 passage of the death with dignity act in Washington state, as the families of those passed are still fighting for assisted death. Interviews with people and advocate groups and doctors were most touching as no matter what your stance on this issue you feel that people like Cody Curtis is a courageous person. Eye opening film that hurts you feel pain and sorrow for those who's life is cut by a terminal illness, yet you feel happy for their courageous work of doing something right when no other means of help will work. Sometimes you have to end it. Most of off you will feel happy to just be alive after watching this painful documentary.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Very Hard to watch but everyone should.

Author: ChristmasDreamin73 from United States
7 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well made and dare I say perfect. The opening scene hit me in the gut and touched me in a way I never expected. I had no idea what to expect upon viewing but wow I will never forget it that is for sure.

As this documentary shows western Docotrs only pro long death. They keep people alive when people really should be the ones calling the shots when it comes to their own health care.

I can not say enough great things about this film. I am not sure how the film maker's were able to keep a distance from the people they were covering but if they didn't I could understand.

I hope this film will open some minds in the USA.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely incredible. Breathless.

Author: makeartnotwar1 from United States
23 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have never seen any sort of film that has made me cry as hard as this one. I have always supported physician assisted suicide, but after watching this, my support has grown ten times stronger.

After watching ten minutes of this documentary, I became completely focused on it. I only paused it because I became overwhelmed with emotion with the many stories told.

I felt like I personally knew Cody Curtis after watching this, and felt deeply disturbed after watching her spirits be crushed by the cancer that haunted her every day until her last breath. I expected to become annoyed with the story because I've seen too many documentaries where they were milking for support by only showing the emotional aspect, but this one was different. After the film ended I felt as if I had just left a friend's funeral. Nothing could have prepared me for this film, but Im so glad that I sat down and watched it.

I suggest watching this with a roll of tissue, you will most certainly need it.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Achieves Restoring and Comforting Warmth Despite Despairing Content

Author: BoogieSmith from Canada
20 June 2014

'How to Die in Oregon' is affecting often to the point of being distressing in its palpable sadness and sorrow. The magic of the film however, is in its ability to artlessly translate a restoring and comforting warmth in the face of such a despairing content. I was left feeling truly grateful to have had the privilege to have seen the film and learn about some of the wonderful people in it.

As a study, this documentary offers immediate proximity to people facing a part of life we must all face; death. And that is not an easy subject for most any of us to grasp or make sense of, no matter how much experience we have had with it. What would you do if you learned that you were incurably ill? Given a rapidly approaching deadline, a deadline you thought you wouldn't have to think about in such a manufactured light... not like this; not right now. How would you cope with being told that your body would soon vigorously, unapologetically and almost certainly painfully, deteriorate and part with... everything.

Now, what would you do if you were able to take back some control in the matter of your life. And if this were possible, what would it even mean?

This documentary addresses the option of physician-assisted suicide which is a matter quite different from euthanasia, (where a doctor is ultimately in control of the procedure) but it is certainly no less controversial. Physician-assisted suicide is a move towards giving terminally ill persons a choice; a choice they, and they alone, can legally make. An individual of sound mind, (who has appropriate witness signatures to report so), is allowed as much consideration and independence as possible in determining when and how they are to exit this world and their illness. It is the patient themselves who is to administer the substance which results in their death, and this is something revolutionary in the western world today.

Whether you agree or disagree with the medical, moral, or political advances in this film should not influence your decision to watch it. Rather, I strongly encourage you to add this to your watch list for two reasons: firstly, for its relatable and engaging accounts and the people you will get to meet, and secondly for its skill as a piece of film-making. If you are a lover of exceptional cinema, especially documentaries, you will not be disappointed.

Hopefully you will leave 'How to Die in Oregon' with an enhanced perception and tangibility of not only death and dying, but more importantly humanity, and what this means to each and everyone of us.

An easy 10/10 for me,


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Moving and thoughtful

Author: ErikaG451 from United States
6 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I know it sounds corny to say "You must see this movie," but seriously, you must see it. Very thought-provoking and moving, no matter what side of the debate you're on. Makes you feel compassion for the patients, especially Cody, whose story runs throughout the film. I was pulling for her.

It was well done. It's a documentary (I know I keep using the word "film") that will leave you speechless at the end. Beginning it with the case of a patient taking the pills has a jarring and disturbing effect.

For another film that supports / compliments this issue see also HBO Films' "You Don't Know Jack." I also found it to be very thought-provoking, and makes you think about the patients, as well.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The one and only missing piece.

Author: spikeshome-05684 from Southwest Pennsylvania
16 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched my Momma pass away in our childhood home as she was at the age of 69, just one day after Thanksgiving 2015. She had been a survivor of ovarian cancer and 8 years after that diagnosis, she had another scan and they found cancer in her tight lung. She had a surgery for that. In a quick time cancer metastasized to her liver. She endured many months of chemo. My Mom was quite the fighter through and through. I was with her for the most of this. Cancer grew in her liver despite the chemo and then had metastasized again into her brain where two tumors were found in the back part of her brain and one smaller one in the front.She endured radiation on her brain. The chemo had been stopped after a trial of the newest chemo type medication that helps the immune system fight against cancer. But by that time, her immune system was terribly damaged by the chemo and cancer so the medicine was useless. She had headaches. She slept a good bit of the time. She had less and less of an appetite and became weaker. She needed help to walk to the bathroom. Her body ached in ways I don't ever want to experience. She took pain medication but when things became so bad, even the strongest pain medicine didn't touch the pain. I was there during the doctor telling her, my father and my sister and I that there was nothing else that could be done and he recommended hospice. That meeting was the sentence before the last small chapter of her life. She passed in her sleep. I tell all of this because I experienced the horror of what cancer can do. I watched the documentary and found a big missing link in it. Where in all these stories was God? The sadness in watching the family at the end seeming so utterly lost in connection was due to the lacking of God in their lives. It was a terrible sadness. In most of the folks, there was no mention of God. THAT is a huge missing piece to 'dying with dignity'. Without our Creator being involved in our lives, my mother's situation would have been hopeless like many in this film. I feel sad for these families and so many are in the same loss. Why in the world would one try and navigate this uncertain life in all it's many evils without the never ending love, compassion, omnipotence and comforting assurance of God? Even with the support of doctors and family and friends, there is a profound emptiness, fear, and in conclusion to ending one's life in this manner. God must be the One directing this story. In Him, this missing piece of the film can be found.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

wish both sides were presented

Author: jozerd from Canada
18 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Overall, a great film with very emotionally powerful scenes. It is a clear pro-PAS film, but did present a small segment where a man fighting cancer was actually encouraged by his health insurance agency to seek PAS.

What I took from the film was that there are certainly cases where PAS is appropriate, because in some situations suffering is unbearable. However, legalization of PAS is very scary to me, not only for the health insurance aspect... but the entire profit driven business enterprise that would result in legalization. Competing products? How much time before one can apply for PAS? (in a business sense, why reject any person who asks for assistance). Good mental health? I think the only way to go about doing it federally is a very strict case by case basis.

I think everyone will have an opinion of this film, and what's great about it is that it forces you to weigh the pros and cons. Emotionally it takes you to a place where you feel like you're part of the family of a suffering terminally ill patient. I just wanted a little bit more arguments from physicians and those opposed to PAS.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Incredible movie

Author: mustangman6799 from United States
6 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is an excellent example of how and why some laws should just not exist. During this presentation, we are taken on a journey with several wonderful people with horrible conditions, people who want to be able to end their suffering on their own terms. Cody, in particular, is an absolutely beautiful person full of life and love; being forced into a situation in which nobody would want to be placed.

This movie is not for entertainment, it's for perspective. The filmmakers very aptly present their side of the debate to allow a person to end their life, should they choose to do so. The entire movie is beautifully edited, the stories are complete enough to convey their meaning without dragging on- it's truly a work of art.

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