“How to Die in Oregon” - A Documentary

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Cody Curtis, photo by Peter RichardsonPeter Richardson's groundbreaking documentary, How to Die in Oregon, is an intimate and personal look at the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon and Washington. After four years of filming, Richardson created a film which is at times difficult to watch because of its unflinching look at death and dying, but in the end, people come away feeling uplifted and perhaps even less afraid of death.

The film doesn't strive to tell people how they must die, but through personal accounts shows how simply having more options for end-of-life care gives people more peace of mind in their final days. As one blogger put it, "After watching the movie, my wife and I can't understand how anyone could argue that death with dignity shouldn't be an option for everybody."

The film is available on DVD or streaming through Amazon or Netflix. Death with Dignity National Center is an affiliate of Amazon; use these links to buy this DVD or stream the film, and a percentage of your purchase will support our work!

For all you advocates out there, you might consider holding a small viewing party with your friends and loved ones to talk about why you support carefully-crafted and safe Death with Dignity laws. To help facilitate a lively conversation we've created a discussion guide.

Below you'll find blog posts related to How to Die in Oregon.

Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

The Organizing Cycle care of COPA

Three states have laws permitting Death with Dignity: Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Two have positive court decisions determining physicians cannot be prosecuted for prescribing medications to hasten death under certain narrow circumstances: Montana and New Mexico (under appeal). But if you live in another state and you want to help enact a Death with Dignity law, what steps can you take? This is the second in a series of five blog posts about early organizing efforts you can undertake to help pave the way for passing a law in your state.

In the first, I focused on the important first step of talking to your friends, neighbors, and family members about Death with Dignity and end-of-life care policy reform.

One of the interesting things about talking to your colleagues with intent about death and dying issues is you will find strong support in areas you did not even know existed. One political organizer told me she thought our supporters were as dedicated as the most dedicated volunteers in politics (teachers and firefighters are the most dedicated, in case you're curious).

Read more: Engaging Allies and Learning the Issue

NM Judge Rules in Favor of Death with Dignity

Yesterday, a New Mexico court ruled terminally ill, mentally competent residents have a constitutional right to request prescribed medication to shorten their suffering. In her ruling, Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash stated:

If decisions made in the shadow of one's imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are? As recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Cruzan "[t]he choice between life and death is a deeply personal decision of obvious and overwhelming finality."

The case, Morris v. Brandenberg was brought before the court on behalf of two doctors, Dr. Katherine Morris and Dr. Aroop Mangalik, as well as a woman diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer, Aja Riggs. According to the Associated Press:

Read more: NM Judge Rules in Favor of Death with Dignity

Time of Death

Time of Death care of Showtime

The unflinching look at death in Showtime's new series Time of Death reminds me of the frank and life-affirming documentary How to Die in Oregon about the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity Acts. Most of the time, movies and TV series which include any aspect of our common inevitability, death, turn only a glancing gaze at the taboo subject.

Through action or suspense shows, death is usually quick and brutal. Detective dramas analyze death after it's happened; medical programs are overly optimistic about the realities of CPR. Comedies almost always avoid the topic altogether (though How I Met Your Mother bucked the establishment in one of its highest rated episodes). For the most part, producers of visual media shy away from death. They're likely concerned viewers won't tune in to watch the complicated emotions around a family losing a loved one to a terminal illness or the difficult physical realities of dying.

Read more: Time of Death

This Week in the Movement

Dr. Morris from How to Die in Oregon

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date with information about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook and Twitter. Below are highlights from this week.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

Death with Dignity in Massachusetts

Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, psychotherapist, and author of the international bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life.

Watching a loved one die without dignity is devastating. Sadly, both of my parents experienced prolonged, painful, and what I considered to be, unnecessarily inhumane deaths.

Twelve years ago, I attempted to discuss end-of-life planning with my mother and father. Because I believe that death is simply a transition to another plane of existence, I tend to approach the topic in a rather direct and practical way, as was the case with my parents back in 2000. I suggested that they do end-of-life planning in advance, to ensure clarity about their wishes and to avoid any potential family conflict. But because neither of my parents were able to discuss or plan for death, at the end they were each kept alive by artificial means and suffered heart-wrenching deaths.

Read more: Death with Dignity in Massachusetts

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You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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