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Last Rights Free Screening

January 22, 2010
‘Last Rights’ — special screening and panel discussion
We go to movies often to escape life and to be entertained, but occasionally, a well-made documentary can help us plunge into reality and be educated. Like taking our medicine, it may be slightly uncomfortable to think about, but it is good for us to do the thinking.
The Oxford Film Festival is teaming up with Mississippi Public Broadcasting to bring a free screening of a film, “Last Rights: Facing End of Life Choices,” and a panel discussion to consider end-of-life choices. The event will be held on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. at the Powerhouse on University Avenue. The film lasts one hour and the panel discussion will be held immediately after the film.
“My intent in making this film is to look at the choices available to patients at the end of life. I want to pique viewers’ interest so that viewers leave with more knowledge about the issues while questioning their own beliefs. In this context, it would be critical to include views explaining why hastened death should never happen along with those which justify why, in rare instances, helping a patient die is seen as a humane action,” Director Karen Cantor said.
The film includes interviews with the family members of four terminally-ill patients. They share riveting personal stories about their loved ones’ choices and their final days. Viewers learn about the complicated and emotional process surrounding their very final decisions and the impact on their families. Echoing salient points, conversations with experts introduce divergent viewpoints: religious, medical, philosophical, legal and personal.
The focus is on four people facing debilitating illnesses: Peggy Sutherland, lung cancer, Portland, Ore., Merian Frederick, ALS, from Ann Arbor, Mich., Doug Gladstone, liver cancer, from the suburbs of Washington, DC and Elbert Nelson,  kidney cancer from the Mississippi Delta whose son, Dr. Scott Nelson, narrates the film.
The film begins with family physician Dr. Nelson speaking about the challenges of bringing bad news to patients and then segues to diagnosing his father with kidney cancer and ultimately, his dad’s death. It is followed by a montage of photos interspersed with comments from the relatives/friends of each of the four central characters, ending with Frederick’s friend talking about her ALS diagnosis. We meet each of the characters, dealing with end-of-life choices in very different ways.
The film screens next in Mississippi at the Crossroads Film Festival on April 4 before premiering on MPB at the end of April before screening on PBS channels nationally.
Panelists include: Cantor, director of the film, Narrator of the film and physician, Nelson, from Cleveland, Jo Ann O’Quinn, a University of Mississippi Professor of Social Work; Chaplain Steve Edmonds from Baptist Memorial Hospital, North Mississippi; attorney Hale Freeland; and bioethics professor Sarah Moses.
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