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We had been warned about How to Die in Oregon, the documentary from director Peter Richardson about a topic both incendiary and heartbreaking: legal, doctor-assisted suicide, legal in the state of Oregon since 1994. The film opens with a home movie of the 343rd person to take advantage of the law, Roger Sagner, as he takes a lethal drink and dies surrounded by his family. The film ends with another death, of 54-year-old mother of two Cody Curtis, the kind of vibrant and eternally young woman you'd never expect to do herself in-- when we first meet her, she's hiking up a mountain with two friends. (that's her at left in the image above)

So, yeah, to say the movie is heartbreaking is kind of stating the obvious. I'm not normally a crier but I was shaking with emotion by the film's conclusion, both watching the decline of Cody Curtis and the crusade of Washington woman Nancy Niedzielski to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in that state after watching her husband wither away due to brain cancer. And yet the film is also somewhat uplifting, as we come to understand the compassionate and intelligent people who support doctor-assisted suicide, and the ways that the power to end one's life on one's own terms can make the end of life infinitely more palatable.

I saw the movie with intrepid video blog partner Matt Patches at a late screening last night, and we walked about both emotionally shaken and totally exhausted, something I think you can see plainly in the video below. We were recording at the trusty old Yarrow Hotel, and I promise you I no longer look so exhausted-- I got a whole six hours sleep last night! Check out the video below and keep coming back for my continuing Sundance adventures.

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