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Posted on February 17, 2020 at 4:30 AM

Watch this 25-minute film of a patient who does VSED.

“My mother had congestive heart failure and decided not to submit herself to the indignities of medical intervention. When she got too weak to get out of bed, she decided to stop eating and drinking (in German it’s called Sterbefasten or Death Fast, in the US it’s called VSED – Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking).”

“My outspoken mother insisted I film our family as we navigated this fraught process together. My brother and I cared for her round the clock during the ten days it took her to die at home. We then washed her body, set her hair, and, from YouTube videos, figured out how to keep her mouth and eyelids closed (a strip of cloth and a bag of rice). We then laid her into a coffin we’d built a few weeks before, which her granddaughter painted with unicorns, sunflowers and a giant smiley face. In helping her die, we continued a conversation about death we’ve been having for decades.”

“This chapter about my mother’s death will become part of a feature length documentary called A Handmade Death about ways others are stepping into the circle of death and reclaiming this universal experience from the experts wearing the white or black coats. A family conducts a home funeral for their patriarch; the town of Crestone CO has organized the first public funeral pyre for their members; a medical-aid-in-dying doctor helps his patients end their suffering on their terms; a couple wring some kind of agency over the terminal illness of their child.”

“Handmade is about the tactile and the intimate. It’s an expression of hands connected to heart, and getting back to essentials. This film is about resilient and independent families and individuals, who despite the norms, have the courage to rethink how we die, revolutionizing how best to continue living.”

It’s My Right: The Handmade Death of Herta Sturmann from Jan Sturmann on Vimeo.

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