Saturday, 20 November 2010

A Short Stay in Switzerland

Fergus Walsh, the BBC's medical correspondent actually appears in the film as a documentary is made.

This is another uncomfortable film. Uncomfortable, as it presents a truth that seems to be counter-intuitive and I don't know how to resolve the tension it creates.

This is a film based on a true story about assisted suicide using the services of the Dignitas Clinic in Zurich - hence the title. The lead character (played by Julie Walters) has just watched her husband slowly die an 'undignified' death as the result of a degenerative neurological condition. Both she and her husband are Doctors which of course makes the irony all the more poignant. Not long after his death, she is diagnosed with a different but similar untreatable terminal condition.

From the outset she determines not to die in the way she painfully watched her husband slip away. She resolves to take matters into her own hands to end her life. Her three grown up children struggle with what she is proposing - particularly so soon after having just lost their father. Feeling that the UK's laws are an ass, she contacts Dignitas and makes the arrangements. Shortly after a Christmas celebrated well she says the time has come and with her three children she travels to Zurich for a short stay. The end is quick and administered with the kind of ruthless efficiency the Swiss are renowned for.

Every fibre in my being wants to do all that it can to preserve human life at any cost - all life is received as a sacred gift. However, when confronted with the means to alleviate suffering in the face of an inevitable outcome, there only seems to be one possible humane outcome. I am content with my moral and ethical theory when it lives in an abstract world devoid of any real consequences, but when it smashes head-on into the context of a real person it is found wanting and I do not know how to square the circle. My hope is that I will never be caught up in such a dilemma relating to someone close to me.

This film sets the moral context brilliantly and the acting is top drawer. Another uncomfortable watch - but essential viewing if we are to be real about the broken world in which we live.

I'll give it 8/10.

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