Defining Hope the film is born out of four years of research and the immeasurable wisdom of the nurses and healthcare professionals that we interviewed for both The American Nurse Project and the Dying in America website. After conducting more than 150 interviews, we learned how critical it is to consider what’s most important in life, to think about our own personal definitions of “quality of life,” and to make time to discuss our values and wishes with our loved ones. It is our greatest hope that this film will help lead and catalyze a national dialogue that translate our interviewees’ recommendations into public action.
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Defining Hope is a story about people weighing what matters most at the most fragile junctures in life. It’s a documentary that follows patients with life-threatening illness as they make choices about how they want to live, how much medical technology they can accept, what they hope for and how that hope evolves when life is threatened. It is optimistic and reminds us that we have choices in how we die. This movie is critical and relevant right now, with our rapidly aging population and incalculable challenges in healthcare and end-of-life care. We aren’t dying the way we used to. We have ventilators, dialysis Lines, ICUs—technologies that can “fix” us and keep our bodies alive—which have radically changed how we make medical decisions. In our death-denying culture, no matter how sick we get, there is always “hope.” The will to live is a powerful force, and eventually we will all have to make individual decisions when faced with very complex choices.