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Steve Fouch

Gerald’s final breath – a review of the BBC’s ‘Inside the Human Body’

Steve Fouch is CMF Connections Manager, and formerly worked in community nursing, HIV & AIDS and palliative care. He serves on the International and European regional boards of Nurses Christian Fellowship International.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

Watching Inside the Human Body tonight was certainly a fascinating experience, looking at how the human body regulates its own function from birth to death, by way of various unusual examples, including a woman who only eats crisps and a man who swims in glacial lakes in conditions that would kill you or I.

But the most contentious aspect was the filming of the last minutes of life of an 84 year old man called Gerald as his body gives up the fight against cancer. Understandable concern had been raised before the screening about the intrusiveness and potential voyeurism and exploitation of such filming.

However, in the end the programme managed to steer a difficult path between exploitation and sentimentality, giving Gerald a chance to talk about his life, his fears and expectations as he approached his demise. It still felt onhealthy xanax that it took away some of his dignity in the closing moments, and that maybe the camera could have looked away and let his last moments be private between him and his family, but having nursed my parents and many patients in their dying moments, I was encouraged that it showed death as it should be – with family around, symptoms managed and in a familiar environment. If it opens the door to further documentaries that can talk honestly about how death is managed today through effective palliative care, the programme will have had a positive impact. And it makes a refreshing change for the BBC to show life and death in such honest and humane detail rather than having yet another celebrity lead a documentary promoting assisted suicide.

Posted by Steve Fouch
CMF Head of Allied Professions Ministries

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