Dying to Live
By John Robbins and Lance Lipman
About twenty people die each day in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant organ that never comes — because too few of us are donors. When an organ does become available doctors have only a few hours to get it from the donor to the recipient. Each minute is crucial as they work to take just one patient off the transplant list. Dying to Live captures a year in the lives of four people waiting to become sick enough to reach the top of the list.
Kevin seems like a typical suburban father until you learn that his life might be cut short due to a defective liver duct. Each time his duct fails he comes dangerously close to death but his doctors are able to stabilize his condition long enough that he’s never eligible for a transplant. Katherine discovered her liver would eventually fail during a routine physical more than a decade ago, just before she and her husband Roy were married. Now she’s caught in a medical limbo. Thirty-one-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure two years ago and is reminded that his call might never come each time he receives dialysis. Myrna knows she’s fortunate to have the support of her loving husband, sister and lifelong friends, as her prospect of receiving a new kidney seems more and more doubtful. Dying to Live follows their uncertain medical paths as they meet with doctors at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia waiting for organ transplants.
Interlaced with the stories of patients like Myrna, the filmmakers chronicle the often times complex decision of becoming an organ donor. Barbara Kilgore, a teaching nurse at Emory Adventist Hospital learns of Andrew’s plight and though they have never met, agrees to donate her own kidney after learning she is a blood match.
Twenty-one-year-old Chase Christman suffered a fatal brain injury while at work and his family is determined to carry out his wish to be an organ donor. Katherine won’t find out until weeks after recovery from surgery that her liver transplant was the result of Chase’s tragic death when she’s given the rare opportunity to meet with his family. During the meeting the Christman’s find some relief in coping with Chase’s death knowing Katherine, and the others who received an organ from Chase are healthy and alive today.
Their meeting is just one of the many emotional highlights in these interwoven stories of remarkable people. Their moments of joy and sadness may shake you, may make you laugh or make you cry, but you will never forget them. Doctors and other medical experts also share insightful advice and dispel common myths for anyone thinking of becoming an organ donor.
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"3 Stars. Helping to raise awareness of a very serious void within the U.S. healthcare system while also underscoring the amazing courage demonstrated by waiting patients and their families, this moving documentary is recommended." Video Librarian
"It’s absolutely terrific. A great film! I’m sitting here wiping the tears from my eyes, deeply moved by it. Everything about it is absolutely state of the art." Chuck Boller, Executive Director Hawaii International Film Festival
"Dying to Live presents the personal stories of four organ transplant patients, their friends and families, and the families of two donors. It raises awareness about the process that many transplant hopefuls experience—the waiting, the anxiety, and the emotional impact of living with a transplant need."
"This video may be a good resource for patients waiting for organ donation, considering becoming an organ donor, or seeking to learn about the process and guide others through decision-making. Schools and libraries serving the health sciences fields would do well to add this to their collections." Jessica Isler, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Middlebury College, Educational Media Reviews Online
"...presents the complex world of organ donation in the United States. ...The heart of this film lies in the stories of the patients and their families, waiting for someone else to die so that they might live. ...The filmmakers handle the sensitive nature of this topic with respect and care, and the information it conveys is important." Catholic Library World
Awards & Conference Screenings
Official Selection, 2012 Western Psychological Association Film Festival
2010 Los Angeles International Film Festival
2011 Hugo Television Awards,
Certificate of Merit Documentary: Social/Political
2012 Southeast Emmy Awards,
Outstanding Achievement, Documentary - Topical
Buying Time: Should media campaigns (in this case, soliciting contributions to pay for bone marrow transplants) be allowed to influence the allocation of precious healthcare resources?
To Choose No Harm: Two healthcare teams must resolve conflicts between the wishes of dying patients and family members, and their own beliefs and clinical judgements. The cases are also discussed by the hospital ethics committee.
Discussing Advance Directives: A nursing team and physician meet to discuss the difficulties they encounter in working with patients on advance directives. Part of the Caring at the End of Life series.