Monday, April 26, 2010
No, not the game show or video game. When I first saw the name of this HBO film, You Don't Know Jack, I thought the title seemed a bit casual for a movie about Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicide. The word flippant came to mind. What I realized as I starting watching the film was that I really don't know Jack. So, maybe an appropriate title (and probably intentionally flippant). I have heard about his work, his court case but I never really knew anything about the man. This film focuses on the years Kevorkian spent as "Dr. Death" but also gives a lot of personal insight into his life, relationships, personality. It shows him as an eccentric man who knowingly gave up his freedom for his cause.
Below is the trailer for this film which just premiered on HBO this past weekend.
Regardless of how you may feel about the topic, you can not (if this film is an accurate portrayal) argue the passion he feels for his cause. He so believed in this cause that he put his own freedom on the line with every death. The last death was not actually an assisted suicide but euthanasia. He went into this knowing it would force a court case.
He pleads a sympathetic case for his cause. The terms he uses are ones that we would be familiar with: death with dignity, quality of life, end suffering. He speaks about why must someone make the decision to have their feeding tube removed and die slowly when we could just end things quickly, humanely. Who are we as doctors to make someone go through that when we have the ability to spare them?
One statement I found interesting: "terminally ill is not a definable term". I would love to hear what everyone thinks of that.
I wondered when I started watching the film how the story would be slanted. It was clearly pro Dr. Kevorkian. I was left wishing for more balanced view of the issues. I felt those against what he had done were vilified and painted as overly religious. (I know very nonreligious people who are against assisted suicide.) I have always seen this as a very complex issue. To just get one side does not do it justice. I was left feeling a bit like the media was trying to manipulate my views rather than just trying to entertain me or even educate me. I would like to see a palliative care perspective. Is death all we have to offer?
From a film perspective, this is very well acted, starring Al Pacino (a remarkable resemblance to Dr. Kevorkian), John Goodman, Susan Sarandon. Intermixed with the main storyline are interesting personal relationships between Jack and his best friends, sister and lawyer. He struggles with the issues that brought him to embrace assisted suicide in the first place, the suffering and death of his mother.
One line in the movie describes Dr. Kevorkian as "the last doctor you'll ever need". My thought was, does that describe me too?