'FRONTLINE: Being Mortal'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)
Overview: FRONTLINE follows renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life. In conjunction with Gawande's new book, 'Being Mortal,' the film investigates the practice of caring for the dying, and shows how doctors himself included are often remarkably untrained, ill-suited and uncomfortable talking about chronic illness and death with their patients.
DVD Verdict: In 'FRONTLINE: Being Mortal,' renowned surgeon Atul Gawande teams with the PBS series to challenge us all to reexamine how we think about death and dying. This documentary also explores the burgeoning art and science of palliative care and the ways in which having a conversation around the question: "What are your priorities if your time is limited?" and can empower patients to live their lives fully, all the way to the very end.
Tom Jennings, the veteran journalist and producer, has made documentaries about police shootings in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the American behind the Mumbai terror attacks, and the inside story of the global financial crisis. Here in 'Being Mortal' his documentary explores how doctors can better help terminally ill people prepare for death, presented some unique and difficult challenges. Among them, gaining the trust of patients and families to allow him into the exam room as they faced some of the hardest conversations of their lives.
The documentary is both riveting and heartbreaking in equal measures, believe me. As we open, and slowly progress, the film team are sometimes met with skepticism from patients, but after building trust and forming relationships over time, things change rapidly. Jennings has said that he actually hopes that "this will catalyze conversations, and that we’re opening the door a little bit to make all of this easier to talk about and, ultimately, face." Watching 'Being Mortal' with my own, sadly unwell Grandmother, I have to say Mission: Accomplished, Mr. Jennings. Mission: Accomplished. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.