Published on: February 17, 2012

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Short Film 38 of 50 in the LIFE Before Death documentary series about the global crisis in untreated pain and the dramatic life changing affect palliative care services can deliver to patients and their families around the world.

In “Being Philosophical”  we discover the philosophy that underpins the practice of palliative care encouraging practitioners to meet a patient where they are, not where we think they should be.

“In the west we live as if life was about materialism. Capitalism rules the day. What an absolute aberrant catastrophe that that’s the case,” reflects Dr Balfour Mount (Canada). “One only has to sit in the arena of end of life care to realize how totally irrelevant those values are.”

“Our medicine has gone far to the side of looking only at the physical domain and it used to be that we were way over on the spiritual domain when we didn’t have the technology, the medicines, the progress,” explains Dr Shannon Moore (USA). “Now as the pendulum swings back the other way, what we do is not just find a body, or just a spirit, but something in the middle which is who we are. We are a combination. We are a creature of spirit and body.”

We hear the tragic story of Mr Wong (Singapore) recounting how undertreated cancer pain led him to self-medicate with illicit drugs like heroin.

“The human species I think has survived because we have a capacity to adapt to anything remarkably quickly,” observes Dr Mount. “Pain paralyses adaptation. The significance of the issue is thrown into stark relief when we realize how treatable, with simple tools, pain is.”

“Opium teaches us only one thing, aside for physical suffering nothing is real,” quotes Dr Rajagopal (India) from the writings of Andre Malraux. “Now this quote has great importance as it stands on one end of the spectrum. On the other end is the sort of philosophical approach to pain, which says that pain is only something that’s good — one should laugh at pain, not suffer from it. That sort of approach is only one you can take when someone else is suffering from pain. No philosopher laughs at his own toothache — he suffers.”

“To support adaptation that’s the goal,” concludes Dr Mount. “The goal isn’t some existential peace of mind and floating off into the stratosphere. The goal is, as Cicely [Dame Cicely Saunders] would say is meeting people where they are not where we think they should be.”

Featuring: Dr Balfour Mount (Canada), Dr Shannon Moore (USA), Dr Rajagopal (India), Mr Wong (Singapore).

Baltimore’s Dr Paul Christo is featuring LIFE Before Death on his radio show, Aches & Gains. The second part was broadcast last week, catch up here:

  • Part 2: Will We Die in Pain? (Part 2)…
    Mike Hill shares some powerful, behind the scenes moments that he experienced while filming this compelling documentary. Dr. Kathleen Foley then gives us the hope we need to ease our fear of dying a painful death.
  • Listen to Part 1: Will We Die in Pain? (Part 1) here…
    Mike Hill, the director, writer, and producer joins us to share his vision for the film. Then Dr. Kathleen Foley, cancer pain & palliative care specialist, and featured expert in the documentary discusses solutions to this problem of universal dimensions.

If you’ve missed previous episodes, catch up on the LIFE Before Death website…


The LIFE Before Death feature film was premiered on 1 February 2012 in Singapore. Pallium India will be screening the film on February 3 in Trivandrum.

Why not organise a screening in your community? GET MORE INFORMATION HERE…

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