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Death Is But a Dream 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Monica De La Torre
Directed by Monica De La Torre
Streaming, 81 mins

College - General Adult
Death; Dreams; Integrative Medicine

Date Entered: 02/22/2022

Reviewed by Bradley Long, Embedded Health Sciences Librarian, Pennsylvania State University

Death Is But a Dream is a documentary that follows the research and daily work of Christopher W. Kerr, MD, PhD, the CEO and chief medical officer of Hospice Buffalo (NY). It focuses on the end-of-life dream experiences of the patients at Hospice Buffalo. This documentary is an extension of Dr. Kerr’s published research, and his noted book Death Is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life's End (ISBN: 978-0525542841). A publicly available companion website, complete with learning modules, is also available. The video was previously broadcast on the PBS affiliated WORLD Channel in April 2021.

Many non-physician caregivers commonly acknowledge that dying patients often experience vivid end-of-life dreams. Such dreams often involve reassuring encounters with previously deceased loved ones or pets. However, this phenomenon was not significantly studied by the medical profession until Dr. Kerr began taking note of the patients at Hospice Buffalo. In fact, it was often a discounted phenomenon, without much concern for the patient’s experience or state-of-mind.

This video explores the end-of-life dream experiences of nine patients at Hospice Buffalo, through taped interviews, often from the study itself. Included are both adults and children, but otherwise it does not include an overly diverse patient population. Some interviews are extensive, while others last only a couple of minutes. Interviews with family members and loved ones are also included, especially when the featured individual has passed away prior to the filming of the documentary. Interviews with members of the patient care team and research staff are also interspersed throughout the video, including segments of a prior TED Talk by Dr. Kerr. Reasons for end-of-life dreams are explored, but the primary focus is on the experience itself as closure events, along with the impact these dreams have on the dying individual. It also brings an interpersonal perspective to Dr. Kerr's prior research.

This video should work well within undergraduate and graduate level death and dying courses, along with interdisciplinary palliative care training programs. It does also work well within a consumer health context, but caution should be used for patients and families in the midst of an end-of-life experience.

National Premiere, The World Channel

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.