While you may never have been bedridden before, you may have been confined to a hospital room. It's a monotonous experience — the same view whenever you open your eyes; the body stiffness from always sitting or lying down; the claustrophobia. If you are unable to leave bed, not to mention too weak even to relieve or feed yourself on your own, the helplessness can be almost unendurable. If this seems hard to imagine, there's a video you should (try to) watch. The Longest Ad In The World is 25 hours long: It's a full day and then some in the life of a bedridden, terminal cancer patient, from the POV of the patient himself.
As reported by Fast Company earlier this week, the video was created by the Spanish organization Association Right To Die With Dignity. It's chilling. When you open the video, you are popped into an arbitrary moment in the cancer patient's day, a moment that, it turns out, is pretty much like all of the others. You see what he sees. The scenery — a drab room with white walls, tan furnishings, an empty bird cage in the corner — does not change. Occasionally, the patient's trembling hand raises up enough for you, at once viewer and patient, to catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes, a caregiver steps into the room with something to drink, or to rotate the patient's immobile limbs.
The video is deliberately, excruciatingly boring, and you cannot fast-forward through it any more than the dying man can fast-forward through his day — or, as in those parts of the world where aid in dying is illegal, any more than he can fast-forward to the end of his life. The video was created to support the legalization of death with dignity, as aid in dying is also called. Whenever you pause or stop the video, the screen fades to white, and text appears with the question, "If you can only stand it for [number of minutes and seconds you watched the video]...why [are we] making others live it for months or even years?" A screen with options for supporting the work of Association Right To Die With Dignity follows.
It is among the most visceral and urgent illustrations of the need for death-with-dignity legislation we have seen yet. This need has been at the forefront of our minds lately in light of death-with-dignity supporter and cancer patient Brittany Maynard's own plan to end her life on November 1, a decision that has attracted both passionate support and biting criticism. This new video close-up of the protracted end of a battle with terminal illness sweeps aside the high-minded, abstract arguments that aid-in-dying detractors make about the sanctity of life with a single question: How can we force this kind of suffering on those who are ready to let go?