The Issue

About the Movement to Reimagine Death

American society is experiencing a seismic shift in how we view death. The medical establishment has historically focused on extending every patient’s life for the maximum number of days. But there is an emerging and fundamental recognition that palliative care, a course that focuses on alleviating suffering, is a more compassionate approach.

As America’s Baby Boom generation ages, our country will face dramatic and unprecedented increases in societal death rates. The scourge of the pandemic has made us all too aware of our fragility. The best time to discuss how to experience our waning days is now—rather than when our health declines or angels show up at our doorstep.

But what healthy and vibrant person (especially a young one) wants to talk about death? It’s a persistent taboo. Documentaries on the subject commonly depict dire scenarios—such as reluctant terminations of life-support systems or “point of no return” melancholy with cancer patients. The topic is depicted as controversial and medicalized, often as a polemic.

That’s not the case with Jack’s story. His decision-making process took place in slow motion for over 25 years. His complete comfort with the subject (and his cheerful personality) allows general audiences to experience his journey not only as a viewer but as a friend. 

You might lean toward an accepting stance about the right to die. Or not. That’s beside the point. Our goal with JACK HAS A PLAN is to engage all audiences with an entertaining, universal story that invites reflection on how each of us wants to live out our final days. Medical aid in dying is integral to the plot, but the film is more concerned about living than dying—especially the need for family and friends to honor the wishes of a loved one going through a life-and-death situation.

That said, Jack’s story underscores these pro-dignity arguments:

  • A patient can bring an end to suffering by choosing when to die.
  • Patients can die before losing their physical or mental capacities.
  • The healthcare financial burden on the family can be reduced.

More than anything, the film captures the ability of somebody like Jack (or you) to arrange for final goodbyes with loved ones—and to maximize our appreciation for a life well lived.