Seven Songs for a Long Life: The experience and impact of public screening of a documentary film on attitudes to open discussion about death and dying

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract

Background
Open discussion about death and dying amongst the general public is being encouraged within UK Society but is not always easy to achieve. Seven Songs for a Long Life is a new documentary feature that was filmed over three years in a Hospice. It was selected by Hospice UK to screen in a range of cinemas and hospices throughout the UK as a way to achieve widespread discussion among the general public.

Research Aims
To use the art medium of film to help change perceptions of hospices in the UK and to help people talk more openly about death and dying.
Study design and methods
The film has screened in 100 locations across the UK to date. Where possible, the audiences were invited to participate in question and answer sessions with the cast and film director. The audience were also invited to complete a short questionnaire about their views about talking about end of life issues, and whether they had changed as a result of the film. Topics covered in the question and answer sessions were analysed thematically and survey responses were collated.

Results
Topics covered in the question and answer sessions ranged from surprise at the individuality of the journeys patients were making towards confronting their own death to the challenges the film throws to the medical emphasis on the disease rather than person, to the importance of being able to contribute to society as a patient with a life-limiting disease, rather than be seen as recipient of care. Further discussion centred around the recent advances in life expectancy and medical care that have resulted in people living much longer with a life limiting disease – but not every time. This new uncertainty was a powerful focus of community discussion, with its implications for the need of protracted family and hospice support.

Questionnaire data showed that having seen the film, respondents were more confident about thinking, talking about and sharing their end of life plans and felt more informed about what hospice care was and that it was as much about living and dying.

Conclusions
Using an immersive documentary film experience and engaging in public forums can help people to increase their confidence in talking about issues relating to death and dying.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2016

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