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I recently watched the documentary How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter Richardson.

I don’t think that I have ever cried so much watching a film as I did in this one.

“In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. As a result, any individual whom two physicians diagnose as having less than six months to live can lawfully request a fatal dose of barbiturate to end his or her life. Since 1994, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In How to Die in Oregon, filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether – and when – to end their lives by lethal overdose. Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue. What emerges is a life-affirming, staggeringly powerful portrait of what it means to die with dignity.”

It is very emotional and really pulls at your heartstrings. I mean, the main character in this film, Cody, is a 53-year-old-woman, who says goodbye to her family, and it is ALL caught on film. Right down to the very end. The very end. It is actually quite beautiful (and obviously ridiculously sad). The scene is a good 5 minutes or so, filmed outside the house, angled at Cody’s bedroom window with the curtains drawn. It is evening, and the light emanating from her window is very soft and inviting. We hear very faintly what is being said inside the bedroom: the goodbyes, the love, the last few breathes. I had goosebumps watching it.

I couldn’t help but wonder if my grandfather would have wanted to access his right to physician-assisted suicide, if it had been legal in Canada.

Assisted suicide is illegal in Canada, though I feel that within the next decade, it will likely be challenged so many times that eventually this will change. In 1992, Sue Rodriguez challenged the Supreme Court on this law, as she suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease and wanted to end her life with dignity. She stated to the Court: “If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?” And its true, is it not? Why do we need permission from the State to take our own life?

Check out the trailer for How to Die in Oregon.

This interview with the director is also really interesting.

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