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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Death and the psychiatrist

Saying goodbye©Lightspring/ Shutterstock
What difference does it make if one is terminal? We are all terminal.
–Jack Kevorkian, MD
Recently, I had the daunting and unexpected opportunity to be a discussant at The Farewell Party—a movie about euthanasia. Why not a clergy member instead or in addition, I wondered? I decided that it must have been the organizer’s anticipation of how emotionally difficult the subject may be. After all, she decided to schedule it at an off time to keep the crowd down.
There turned out to be not only one psychiatrist, but two of us! That might help, I thought, since as one of us talked, the other could watch and assess how the audience was reacting. The literal translation of the film’s Hebrew title is “A Good Death”—a serious comedy. I wondered if we psychiatrists could help.
After previewing the movie, I did some due diligence about the current role of psychiatrists in death and dying in general, as well as euthanasia specifically. I did not anticipate, though, that I would also have to look so much into myself.
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