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End Game smEnd Game (2018)

This forty-minute Netflix Original movie by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman follows the last weeks of five terminally ill patients at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. The film premiered at Sundance in 2018, and was nominated for a 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Much of the film focuses on forty-five-year old Mitra and her extended Persian family. Kym decided to spend her last days at home. A Chinese man named Bruce decided to stop dialysis. An African American woman named Pat had incurable uterine cancer. Thekla admitted that she found it difficult to make peace with death. Overseeing these five people is a creative Palliative Care Team at UCSF that is working hard to change perceptions about death and dying: social workers, chaplains, doctors, nurses, and volunteers. A couple of these five patients enter an affiliated program called the Zen Hospice Project. The caregivers must interact not only with the patient, but with a complicated cast of other stake holders: children, siblings, spouses, and parents. There are no easy answers to the complicated and deeply personal questions surrounding the end of life (grief, conflicts, trade offs, etc.), but this film would nonetheless help facilitate that difficult discussion. For more on this important subject, see the book by Atul Gawande, Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014), 282pp., and the movie version of this book by PBS Frontline, also called Being Mortal.

Dan Clendenin:

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