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Extremis (2016)Extremis (2016)

Similar to the movie End Game (2018) that I reviewed a few weeks ago, this Netflix Documentary short film considers the complex questions and emotionally fraught decisions that surround end-of-life care. The producer-director is Dan Krauss, whose films have won numerous awards, including an Oscar nomination for The Death of Kevin Carter (2005). Extremis is filmed at the Highland Hospital intensive care unit in Oakland. Krauss does a good job of selecting stories that present different choices. Donna can only breathe with a machine in a special facility. Selena's only child says she is "hoping for a miracle" and would "feel like a murderer" if she discontinued life support for her mother. A homeless man has very limited capacity for understanding and decision-making, plus he is without any known family to help him. And while patients and families understandably search for clarity, a physician admits that there are "very few things you can be 100% certain about." 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. Like the film Endgame (2018), Extremis received a 2017 Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Short Subject.

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