A Canadian woman with a terminal disease fights her government to be allowed to commit suicide with the assistance of a physician. Based on a true story. [ At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story credits: Dir: Sheldon Larry/ Wendy Crewson, Al Waxman, Carl Marotte/ 90 min/ Drama/ Canada/ Right to Die]
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In 1991, Sue Rodriguez was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), an incurable condition that ends in paralysis and eventual death by suffocation. She didn’t want to experience this latter, painful stage of the disease, so she decided that she would go on living as long as she could, with the plan that when the paralysis began to set in, she would commit suicide.
“At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story does a good job of making the argument for legalization of physician-assisted suicide.”
She approached a “right to die” society for advice and was told that, while there were physicians who might help a paralyzed person die, it would be illegal for them to do so. She subsequently challenged the law against physician-assisted suicide in court. Her case was relatively strong because she wasn’t asking for a doctor to actually administer poison, but simply wanted to be allowed to access an existing device that would mechanically administer a poisonous injection in response to her push of a button. She fought her case all the way up to Canada’s Supreme Court, but lost in a close decision.
Nonetheless, her battle with the government strengthened the “right to die” movement in Canada and put the issue in a sympathetic light in the minds of the Canadian public. And in the end, a doctor clandestinely assisted in her suicide anyway.
At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story does a good job of making the argument for legalization of physician-assisted suicide. The case presented is a sympathetic one, because the victim here is facing an otherwise horrible demise by slow suffocation, a situation that lends itself to compassion. It also puts the right perspective on government meddling, as even at the close of her life she is in fear that the police are going to stop her from ending it peacefully.
Apart from the film’s libertarian content, it’s just an average watch; but it’s relatively moving because of the subject. As Rodriguez herself said before her death, in a videotaped appeal to Canada’s parliament: “I will be unable to breathe without a respirator. I will be unable to eat or swallow, unable to move without assistance. I want to ask you gentlemen: If I cannot give consent to my own death, then whose body is this? Who owns my life?” Good question.
“Wendy Crewson won the Canadian Gemini award for her towering performance as the title character in At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story.”
How to See It
“She was 42 years old and had been living with ALS for two years. When the press conference ended, Rodriguez, accompanied by Considine, left the hotel. ‘Traffic stopped,’ Considine says, remembering the moment. ‘Pedestrians stopped. And they started clapping for her, just spontaneously, and the echo of the applause along the street was extraordinary.'”
–Who owns my life?: Sue Rodriguez changed how we think