The Self-Made Man

Is it ever rational to choose death? Is it ever good?
Year Released
Film Length(s)
53 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


A funny, poignant look at the "right-to-die" issue told through the story of the filmmaker's father.

Featured review

Stimulating, moving and at times unnerving...It helps us think through our assumptions about suicide, illness and end-of-life issues. 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


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.


The 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
A 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
Uniquely 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
An 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; actually, 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
An important -- indeed essential - film for understanding the role of autonomy in end-of-life choices.
Margaret Pabst Battin
Distinguished professor of philosophy, adjunct professor of internal medicine, University of Utah

Awards and Screenings

Two national Emmy nominations for documentary and writing
Duke University Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award
CINE Gold Eagle for film excellence
Video Librarian, “Best Documentaries of 2006.”
PBS's POV documentary showcase
SXSW Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal
Seoul Independent Documentary Festival
AFI/Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Film Festival

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • Director's Commentary
  • DVD Extras
  • Transcript

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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