Monday, June 24, 2013


I think it would be interesting to compare two scenes from two movies when teaching about Euthanasia.

Scene 1 is from "Million Dollar Baby."

I keep looking for the clip for Scene 2 on YouTube, but I cannot find it. It's a scene from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." This film is about a man who has a stroke and then discovers he has locked-in syndrome. He understands everything that is being said to him, but he can only move his eyes.

This is the scene (as written about in the book 'The Picture of Health: Medical Ethics and the Movies.' There, they don't link it to euthanasia, but rather to self-determination.

This scene from Schnabel's film illustrates the complexity of self-determination for patients and medical staff. Jean-Dominique has already mastered the use of the eyeblink response to the alphabet presented by his speech therapist, Henriette. He spells out to her the words, "I want." Henriette, who has been empathetic and patient with him, smiles and asks what he wants. It will be his first expression to her of his own wishes. With each blink of his eye, he spells out, letter-by-letter, "D-E-A." As she vocalizes the next letter, "T," she realizes what he is spelling. In the process, her expression changes from empathy to confusion and hurt. She turns away from him, and when she turns back, tells him, "How dare you! There are people who love you. To whom you matter. I hardly know you, and you matter to me already. You're alive! Don't say you want to die. It's disrespectful! Obscene!...Let's hope you change your mind." She leaves the room abruptly. After several moments, she returns and apologizes. Jean-Dominique follows Henriette's movements and hears her apology, but mentally asks, "For what?"

I think it's interesting to see how moved Frank is by Maggie's request vs. how horrified Henriette is by Jean-Dominique's. I think it would be fascinating to ask students to compare these two scenes, and the reactions by Frank vs. Henriette.