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New Netflix Documentary Explores How We Approach End-Of-Life

by | Jul 19, 2018 | For Families


A new Netflix documentary, End Game, takes an intimate look at the emotions and decisions involved among patients, families, and hospital staff as they evaluate end-of-life decisions. As the documentary follows these patients, it also provides thought-provoking insight into our current state of end-of-life care and ways we might improve upon it.

End Game Overview

The documentary centers around a group of palliative care patients at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco.

The patients include Mitra, a 45-year-old midwife from Iran; Kym Anderson, a former nurse; Pat Harris; Bruce Chu; and Thekla Hammond. In addition to their perspectives, the film also covers BJ Miller and his team of palliative care pioneers working at the Zen Hospice Project.

“The basic principle of Zen Hospice Project,” Miller explains, “is you don’t run away from hard stuff.”

Their goal is to provide full-faceted support to their patients. This means not just focusing on the disease, but the whole person — providing them with support emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

At times, it’s not easy. Mitra, a wife and mother, has an incurable and aggressive form of cancer. Her family sees she is suffering but aren’t prepared to lose her. During the course of the documentary, we watch as they all grapple with the decision. “Hospice means death,” Mitra’s mother tells the filmmakers.

Another patient, Thekla, fears what comes after death.

“I love to live. I am not accepting this,” she tells BJ Miller. She goes on to say, “I think the scary part is the unknown. And the lack of control.”

He responds to her by saying, “I will tell you, Thekla, from doing this work and being near people who are at the very, very, end, everything I’ve ever seen would suggest that wherever we’re going, whatever abyss we’re meeting, ain’t so bad.”

At times, the documentary can be hard to watch. It’s filled with honest, heart-wrenching moments of families and their loved ones as they face a difficult path together. But it’s also eye-opening in that it does get you thinking. It makes us question what we want in our own end-of-life care. It makes us realize our own mortality. Because we are all going to die at some point, the documentary helps to highlight the important question — What does it mean to die a “good” death? And how can we ensure that for ourselves, and the ones we love?

Have you seen End Game or plan on watching it? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments!

To help encourage and inspire meaningful end-of-life conversations, download our free conversation guide.


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