“Me Before You” is a novel written by JoJo Moyes in 2012 that was produced as a romantic drama film in 2016 directed by Thea Sharrock. In this story we have two major characters: Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke), and William “Will” Traynor (Sam Claflin). The general storyline is that William “Will” Traynor is a successful banker who gets into a horrible motorcycle accident on his way to work that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down- making him in medical terms a quadriplegic. Two years after the accident Louisa “Lou” Clark is hired by William Traynor’s family to be his caretaker because due to his health condition (quadriplegic- paralysis in both arms and legs) he was not able to do even the most minimal of tasks. Through being Williams caretaker, Louisa and William eventually develop romantic feelings for each other/ fall in love, but major tension builds when Louisa finds out William wants to end his life via physician-assisted suicide. Louisa makes it her life’s purpose to try to show William that life is worth living- even as a quadriplegic. The story ends with William going to an institution (Dignitas) in Switzerland for assisted suicide and chose to end his life because he did not think life as a quadriplegic was worth living.

“Me Before You” raises the controversial question of whether assisted suicide is ethically acceptable? Out of the 50 states of the United States of America, there are only 9 states in which Physician-assisted suicide/ Physician-assisted death/ “aid in dying” is legal (California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington). This concept pushes the boundary of how art (book/ movie) may romanticize a concept that is in fact still illegal in a lot of states in the US (assisted suicide).

In California, there is the ‘California End of Life Option Act’ in action that allows terminally ill adult residents in the state of California to access medical aid in dying (by self-administering lethal drugs) provided specific circumstances are met. Although, the book/ movie “Me Before You” was set in the United Kingdom and the character William “Will” Traynor went to Switzerland to be able to have a physician- assisted suicide- this is still very much a hot topic in the US.

The question remains as to whether “Me Before You” adds some kind of romanization to suicide (in this case assisted suicide) … is up to you- the viewer.

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Jannat Mann

One thought on “Romanticizing Assisted Suicide?

  1. Hi Jannat!

    I find this topic of particular interest as someone who is in the medical field. In nursing school, we are taught to approach death with compassion, and I think that can look different for a lot of people. I personally have always bee in support of physician-assisted suicide, because I personally don’t think it’s ethical to force someone to live out their last days in pain and mental anguish. This movie addressed the problem head on and picked an example that some might find difficult to accept. For example, the main male character in the movie, Will, wasn’t actually at the end of his life, he was just severely disabled. There are other individuals who may have lived out their days as a quadriplegic without the same mental anguish Will faced. In the end, I don’t think it’s within our right to force someone to stay alive against thier wishes, if they are of sane mind (excluding suicidal psych patients).

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