There is no experience on earth more disturbing than watching another human being struggling to stay alive. Yet that is the precise reality that the doctors and nurses who work in our nation’s emergency rooms encounter every day. Most often, the person they are treating is a stranger, and they often arrive at the hospital alone, with no one to speak on their behalf. With little information to guide their decision making and no time to seek out family and friends, these health care professionals are forced to make life and death decisions in the blink of an eye.

Sometimes those decisions have wonderful outcomes, but many times they do not.

“Extremis,” a short film by director Dan Krauss, is about the gut wrenching consequences that all too often follow the decision to save a life. Set in the Intensive Care Unit of Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, it follows palliative care specialist Dr. Jessica Zitter as she works with several families whose loved ones are being cared for in the ICU. Just 24-minutes long, the film is a powerful and incredibly intimate view how difficult end-of-life decision making can be for physicians and families alike.

At the beginning of the film we meet Donna and her husband, Gordon. Donna has been living with a progressive form of muscular dystrophy for many years, and she is now nearing the end of her life. Her muscle strength has deteriorated to the point that she can’t breathe effectively her own. When she arrived at the hospital, doctors inserted a breathing tube and placed her on a ventilator. Now, she, her husband and Dr. Zitter are faced with the monumental question: “What do we do now?” (…) Read Full Publication Here

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