Photo: Ingo Behring
Dr. Matthias Rilling is a doctor at the internal medicine station in catholic St. Josef Hospital in Freiburg, Germany. He is confronted with death daily. Where should the doctor interfere, where does he help the patient, where does he just prolong unnecessary suffering? Dr. Rilling has been dealing with these questions for years. We are allowed to accompany him on his rounds.
On a beautiful summer’s day Dr. Rilling has to give Gisela Z. the terrible message that she is has an incurable illness. He has diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to her liver, only eleven days after she has retired. How do Gisela Z. and her family members react to the catastrophic news? Which treatment does she decide to follow? How does she prepare herself to say good-bye?
While Gisela Z., after the first shock, puts her hopes on the effects of chemotherapy, in the hospital Dr. Rilling has to comfort Rupert G., who after falling at home, cannot go back to his house and is waiting for placement in a home for the elderly. Rupert G., 87, has a weak heart and suffers from Parkinsons. Actually he is ready to die, but who will take care of his wife who suffers from dementia? Can Dr. Rilling get him back on legs? At what cost?
After work, Dr. Rilling often visits his 96 year old father Franz. Dr. Rilling has set things up for him, so that when his time comes no intensive care procedures will be initiated. Grandfather Franz should be allowed to die as peacefully as possible. “This is his final season,” says Dr. Rilling, and his father knows it, too. We follow him with the camera.
The film looks where pain and suffering reign, where every one of us will someday be: at the end of life. A film that deals with the final things that are really important in life. How can we die with dignity?