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Life Before Death


Mike Hill

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About the Movie

HOW WILL YOU DIE? LIFE BEFORE DEATH is a multi-award winning documentary that asks the fundamental question underpinning our mortality. This beautifully filmed journey takes us to 11 countries as we follow the remarkable health care professionals battling the sweeping epidemic of pain that threatens to condemn one in every ten of us to an agonizing and shameful death. Through the eyes of patients and their families we discover the inherent humanity that empowers the best of us to care for those beyond cure. This is an intimate hopeful and life-affirming film about living well and dying better, advocating for making the most of every moment in our life before death.

Customer Reviews

Film looks at crisis in pain relief for dying

Dying does not have to hurt. That is the key message of the feature film LIFE Before Death. Although it is unnecessary for any human being to suffer from terrible pain in the final stages of life, the reality-in many parts of the world-is far too often a different story. Lack of access to essential pain medications and palliative care is the problem; but it is a problem that is relatively simple to solve.

"I would like to go quietly in my sleep," is what most of us have to say about dying. We tend to take care of the legal and financial preparations that seem necessary. Beyond that, we generally prefer not to talk about dying-or even think about it, for that matter.

But a movie produced by Australian filmmakers, "Life Before Death," is asking us to open our eyes and see what the days leading up to dying actually look and feel like for many people. Why? Because by increasing awareness of what they consider to be a global humanitarian crisis, they hope to help make the final days of life much less painful for those who are suffering unnecessarily all around the world.

Making the process of approaching death far more gentle and humane for millions of people is not as daunting a task as it may seem. Morphine- the tried and true gold standard in pain relief-is actually cheap, plentiful, and available in sufficient quantities in many countries. Gaining access to it for those who need it most, however, is a widespread problem. Far too often and in too many countries, that means trying to pass through a formidably sticky wicket of red tape.

Unreasonably complex and restrictive government regulations, controls, and licensing requirements create a maze of bureaucratic roadblocks. Rather than serving the legitimate purposes-such as prevention of abuse and illegal trafficking-for which they are purportedly intended, they stand in the way of delivering essential pain medications to patients who are left dying in terrible pain.

Eighty percent of all people cannot access essential pain medicines. Fifteen percent of the world currently uses ninety-four percent of the world's medicinal opioids, according to the film. Allowing such an imbalance to continue violates what must certainly be considered one of the most basic of human rights: the right to die with dignity. Yet very few people even know that such a problem exists.

Once you do know about it, however, you cannot help but recognize that thousands of people dying in excruciating pain unnecessarily every day is truly a humanitarian crisis that shouldn't be allowed to go on.

That is where the Australian filmmakers who produced "Life Before Death," come into the picture. "Life Before Death" is a beautifully shot eighty-minute feature film. Compelling in unexpected ways, never morose, and deeply affecting without being manipulative, this movie takes us to eleven countries and introduces some exceptionally wise, compassionate men and women who stand comfortably beside death every day. Through doctors and advocates of many kinds, the film speaks clearly on behalf of patients dying in relentless pain who cannot speak for themselves.

At times the movie lets the audience directly hear the poignant voices of those who are still able to describe their own predicament, despite the distress that is their daily life as they approach their dying day. But then comes the all-important counterpart, the good news: "Pain is a treatable problem," as one end-of-life nurse in the movie puts it. The solution is actually simple: effective medicines exist, and they are inexpensive.

It makes a profound difference when these patients simply receive the pain medication they need. Truly, it makes all the difference in the world to them. Life instantly becomes so much brighter in every way-not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too-that even if the day might be their last one, they suddenly find it worth living.

One doctor in the movie describes a typical patient with not long to live, lying on the ground in a developing country, unable to sit up, not eating or speaking, because of unspeakable pain. When the patient is administered a small dose of morphine, "a simple, cost-effective drug- that is 100% effective," within minutes that person is sitting up, talking with family, taking bites of food, smiling, even laughing. Not only the patient, but also the whole family, breathes a huge sigh of relief. "Why would we not do this?" the doctor asks. "Yet at every corner there is a challenge to the availability of these drugs."

The film's original musical score has lyrics that sum up one key message of the movie: the reason for us to care about strangers who are suffering from unnecessary pain in far reaches of the world. It is a simple request for something we would all wish to have when our own time comes, even if we prefer not to think about it now.

"Take away the pain inside me," the song says. "Give me one last dance with peace."

~ Susan Griffin, Comox Valley Echo, British Columbia, Canada

Eye Opener

What a fantastic documentary. As a chronic pain sufferer, watching this has made me put my own pain into perspective. There are so many people world-wide that are needlessly suffering. I think this film should be widely available to not only the community but health care providers. I wish it was available to buy through iTunes so that I could re-watch it in times of self pity! THANKYOU!!!!!!

Must see- we are all going to die

This film is a must see for anyone who is going to die.
We can choose to die gracefully with the help of painkillers, or we can flush our lives down the toilet in a swirl of pain and agony, which is what reported some 80% of the world's population is forced to do right now.
Seriously, it's a confronting film, but worth watching.

Life Before Death
View in iTunes
  • $15.99
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Released: 2012

Customer Ratings