I walked in to the sound of sobs then a long moan.  It was the cry of an African woman, her head wrapped in a blue scarf, I think, lying on a narrow cot in her modest home.  Dying of AIDS?  Dying of cancer?  I wasn’t sure, but I did know that this scene from the the premiere screening of Life before Death was being viewed in 25 countries today, to educate people about the needless raw suffering that is taking place in homes and hospitals all over the world.

Having arrived late,  I took a seat in the back beside Dr. Jim Cleary, a UW physician and a leading global educator and policy advocate for the promotion of palliative care.  He was hosting the event for the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, and had himself been instrumental in developing the film.   I had to ask him, was the scene that I had just witnessed dramatized or real?

“It’s real,”  he said, and the words took on double meaning, because they meant both that this was a real woman, a woman like me, allowing herself to be filmed as she was dying in pain to benefit others, and also because the problem is invisible to so many of us.  We have to be reminded that “it’s real” and it is happening to 1 out of ten people all around the world.  We know how to address this, and it is not too expensive.  We just have to decide, as a human family, that everyone’s quality of life at death matters, and that no one should needlessly die in pain.

This “teaser” is a good way to get a sense of wht the film is about:

Life before Death portrays the realities of painful death, but it also shows life near the time of death as it should be and can be, with affordable pain relief, social support and care.  In addition to a longer film that can be purchased at www.lifebeforedeath.com  (proceeds benefit the cause), there are a number of informative shorts on topics such as chronic pain, hospice care, HIV/AIDS, the facts about opioid use, and others.  I hope readers will visit the site and share your thoughts here.

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