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The Self-Made Man

by Susan Stern

Is it ever rational to choose death? Is it ever good?

Is it ever rational to choose death? On Independence Day at Stern Ranch, 77-year-old solar energy pioneer Bob Stern finds out he's seriously ill - possibly dying. Meanwhile, an elderly in-law is dying on artificial life support. Bob decides to cheat that fate and take his own life. His family tries to stop him. Bob sets up a video camera. Daughter Susan Stern (Barbie Nation) explores "rational suicide," the "right-to-die" and the difficult end-of-life choices faced by an aging population.

quoteStimulating, moving and at times unnerving...It helps us think through our assumptions about suicide, illness and end-of-life issues. It's very well done. It's a good sign when I laugh, get teary and am left searching for better answers.
Dr. Timothy E. Quill M.D.
Director, Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics
University of Rochester School of Medicine

quoteThe Self-Made Man is a tour de force. No other film documentary has ever captured the living trail of a man's decision to commit suicide in the context of his past, present, and future. Whatever your background and experience, world view, and beliefs, this film will provoke powerful reactions and compelling questions about the right to die.
Donna Cohen
Professor, Department of Aging and Mental Health
Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute
University of South Florida

quoteA remarkable job of presenting this emotionally-charged subject in a way that ultimately defuses the contentious social debate and refocuses on the wider issue of the choices left to people in the later years.
Paul Kleyman
Editor, Aging Today
American Society on Aging

quoteUniquely instructive and admirable film that smartly tackles right-to-die issues that don't lend themselves to easy answers...highly recommended.
J. Shannon
Video Librarian

quoteAn honest and courageous look at a subject that some don't even believe exists: the rational suicide. I would highly recommend this film to those concerned with the issue of suicide and its effects on the family left behind. More broadly, it may be profitably viewed by anyone in the health care professions, especially those who care for elders.
Guy Micco, MD
Director, UC Berkeley Resource Center on Aging
Co-Director, UC Berkeley Center for Medicine, the Humanities, and Law

More Reviews


  • PBS National Broadcast, P.O.V.
  • Duke University Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award
  • Cine Gold Eagle award
  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montr?al
  • SXSW Film Festival
  • Seoul Independent Documentary Festival
  • AFI/Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Film Festival
  • St. Louis International Film Festival
  • Council on Foundations Film and Video Festival

Resource Web Sites

appleThe Self-Made Man Discussion Guide

Download the 21-page, full-color discussion guide produced by PBS' P.O.V. from the P.O.V. website.

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The Self-Made Man

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Appropriate for: College/University

Special Features: The DVD contains an interview with filmmaker Susan Stern, director's commentary, closed captioning and 18 chapter stops to aid teaching and discussion.

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