The Arts

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Death with Dignity laws and assisted death are often addressed in books, film, and television. Often these portrayals are fraught with inaccuracies in an effort to make this controversial subject even more of a hot-button issue. Sometimes, however, bodies of work emerge which are accurate and thought provoking.

Below you'll find posts about films or TV programs which take the time to truly look at what it means to die with dignity.

Let's Talk

The Tombstone

Christi R. Suzanne is a web and communications professional in health care and higher education. She writes in her spare time and is currently working on a novel where dying well is one of its themes. Follow her on Twitter: @christirsuzanne.

I've been obsessed with four things my entire life: writing, reading, traveling, and dying. The first "book" I ever wrote was called The Tombstone. I hadn't come up with my pen name yet. I was in fourth grade and wrote it on one of my mother's notepads. I even illustrated it. The story is about a mother and daughter. One day, when the child is older and living in America the mother moves into a cave in an unnamed country. Pretty soon the reader realizes that the mother is sick, deathly ill and that she isn't going to live much longer. In the end, her daughter picks exactly three flowers and places them on top of her mother. She watches her die peacefully.

Even then, I imagined a whole story based around a way to control how you die and choosing who to have next to your deathbed. Most of all, I hoped death would be a peaceful experience.

Read more: Let's Talk

Intimate Conversations about Love and Loss

Encountering the Edge by Karen Kaplan

Karen Kaplan is an ordained rabbi and served as a hospice chaplain for seven years. Learn more about Encountering the Edge and read book excerpts on the publisher's site or Amazon. You can also see Karen's own blog, Offbeat Compassion.

Death with Dignity National Center's Melissa Barber asked me as I prepared this post, "Why did you write this book?" This is something every author should keep in mind throughout the writing process. It implies, among many other things, that a solidly cogent answer must precede the genesis of any worthwhile book.

While writing my hospice chaplain memoir, I kept in mind how the author of Ecclesiastes admonished his son: "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." And I was acutely conscious of needing abundant justification for writing Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died.

Melissa's question is also an excellent tool for self-reflection. It's one thing to explain what a reader might get out of it, and quite another for authors to delve into the spiritual reasons underlying their endeavors. (The psychological reason is yet another dimension, and this is dealt with in the book.) I'll now endeavor to take on both challenges.

Read more: Intimate Conversations about Love and Loss

Facing Death Together

Brant Huddleston

After 17 years working for IBM, Brant Huddleston left the corporate world and became an entrepreneur. He's recently started the Dance to Death Afterlife podcast to learn, with his listeners, about death and dying in an upbeat and educational way. You can follow the podcast on Twitter: @D2DAfterlife or Facebook.

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday....and all is well.

The last time I saw my brother was on a boat in the middle of the Severn River near Annapolis, Maryland. It was summer, and the family had gathered to spread his ashes. John died in April 1992 at age 39, just three weeks after the death of my father. It was a hard year.

Read more: Facing Death Together

A Will for the Woods

A Will for the Woods

A Will for the Woods is an information-packed documentary about green burials. This relatively new concept in the US is starting to gain traction throughout the country, and the film explores how the Green Burial Council is working with land trusts and cemetery professionals to develop new ways to honor clients' requests and preserve natural areas.

But more than that, it's an intimate and unflinching look at the journey a couple takes in planning for imminent death. Throughout most of the documentary, Clark Wang lives with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He's a young psychiatrist who seeks aggressive treatment, but during the course of the film it becomes more and more apparent the cancer isn't responding to the treatments and is spreading with increased vigor. His wife, Jane Ezzard, is a psychiatric nurse, and perhaps because of their medical backgrounds, they both face his death head on and with plain frankness.

Read more: A Will for the Woods

Showtime's Time of Death

Time of Death is a new series on Showtime depicting stories of families with a terminally ill member. Presented in documentary fashion, producers of the series aim to deliver intimate portrayals of the final moments of life.

This series is well worth a moment of your time, even during this busy holiday season; it provides a realistic glimpse into the dying process—one not presented in most movies or television shows. It doesn't contain glamorized stories of heroic and successful medical treatments. Each week, we meet new characters; each week they die. In between, they undergo medical treatments, struggle with family issues, and grapple with mortality.

In the first episode, available free on YouTube or on the Showtime website, viewers meet Michael, a man diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer of the connective tissue. Michael accepts his impending death with grace, while his taciturn father struggles to cope with the fast-moving reality of his son's mortality. The hospice nurse helps his family understand the dying process as he takes his final breath.

Read more: Showtime's Time of Death

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