If you have Netflix, you may have seen an ad for the 24-minute film Extremis. I often ignore whatever Netflix is promoting, because often it just doesn’t match up with my interests. But this short film addresses an issue near and dear to my heart: end-of-life care wishes.
Extremis follows Dr. Jessica Zitter, a palliative care specialist at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. She helps guide families through the toughest decision of all, when to transition from life-sustaining care that is often uncomfortable for the patient (breathing tubes, feeding tubes) and focus on comfort care, allowing a patient to die peacefully.
It is often the toughest decision a family will ever make.
Much like some people are more motivated to quit smoking after hearing the stories of lung cancer victims versus reading inspirational brochures, I hope that this film will serve as a sobering wake-up call about how important is to make end-of-life wishes. The consequences of ignoring such advice is outlined in painful detail in the film.
At the same time, when no orders are in place, each family reserves the right to decide what care their loved one will receive, even if it goes against the doctor’s advice. I may not have agreed with all of the family’s decisions in this film, but I could tell they came from the heart.
Anyone who has been through an emergency medical issue with a loved one will relate to this film. Suddenly you are faced with making major life-and-death decisions under the worst of circumstances. It is overwhelming and emotional. There is despair and hope and guilt and more than anything, a cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything. It’s a moment you never want to experience but also one that you never forget.
If you have a chance, check it out and let me know what you think.