Film showing realities of death at Stan Hagen Theatre next Friday

Most of the world doesn't have access to pain medication and palliative care that helps them die comfortably

Dying does not have to hurt.

That is the key message of a feature film coming soon to the Comox Valley.

Although it is unnecessary for any human being to suffer from terrible pain in the final stages of life, the reality — in many parts of the world — is far too often a different story. Lack of access to essential pain medications and palliative care is the problem; but it is a problem that is relatively simple to solve.

“I would like to go quietly in my sleep,” is what most of us have to say about dying. We tend to take care of the legal and financial preparations that seem necessary. Beyond that, we generally prefer not to talk about dying — or even think about it, for that matter.

But a movie produced by Australian filmmakers, Life Before Death, is asking us to open our eyes and see what the days leading up to dying actually look and feel like for many people.


Because by increasing awareness of what they consider to be a global humanitarian crisis, they hope to help make the final days of life much less painful for those who are suffering unnecessarily all around the world.

Making the process of approaching death far more gentle and humane for millions of people is not as daunting a task as it may seem. Morphine — the tried and true gold standard in pain relief — is actually cheap, plentiful, and available in sufficient quantities in many countries.

Gaining access to it for those who need it most, however, is a widespread problem. Far too often and in too many countries, that means trying to pass through a formidably sticky wicket of red tape.

Unreasonably complex and restrictive government regulations, controls, and licensing requirements create a maze of bureaucratic roadblocks. Rather than serving the legitimate purposes — such as prevention of abuse and illegal trafficking — for which they are purportedly intended, they stand in the way of delivering essential pain medications to patients who are left dying in terrible pain.

Eighty per cent of all people cannot access essential pain medicines. Fifteen per cent of the world uses 94 per cent of the world’s medicinal opioids, according to the film.

Allowing such an imbalance to continue violates what must certainly be considered one of the most basic of human rights: the right to die with dignity. Yet very few people even know that such a problem exists.

Once you do know about it, however, you cannot help but recognize that thousands of people dying in excruciating pain unnecessarily every day is truly a humanitarian crisis that shouldn’t be allowed to go on.

That is where the filmmakers who produced Life Before Death come into the picture.

The beautifully shot 80-minute feature film will be screened at North Island College’s Stan Hagen Theatre on April 27 at 7 p.m., presented by the Comox Valley Hospice Society in collaboration with several other local non-profit groups. The suggestion donation for the screening is $2.

Following the screening of the movie, local palliative care hospice practitioners will be available for discussion and to answer any questions. For more information, contact Comox Valley Hospice Society at or call 250-339-5533.

Susan Griffin wrote this article on behalf of the on behalf of Comox Valley Hospice Society.

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