Director: Peter D. Richardson
Summary: From its opening scene, where a terminally ill cancer patient takes a lethal dose of Seconal and literally dies on camera, it becomes shockingly clear that How to Die in Oregon is a special film. 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 (Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon screened at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival) 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.
Excitement scale (1-10): 9 – How to Die in Oregon could very well be the next iteration of The Bridge, which also examined suicide in a meaningful way. Richardson’s film takes this investigation further by including assisted suicide into the equation. Winning the Grand Jury Prize is a big boost for this film’s credibility, but one has to wonder how the general public will feel about such a taboo subject.