July 1996, the sad case of a dying man and his controversial doctor in the Northern Territory, Australia, where euthanasia first became legal.
Max Bell is dying of cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. He came to Darwin, Australia, to take advantage of the world's first ever euthanasia law. But since the bill was passed in May 1995, it has been dogged by legal challenges, governmental struggles and religious protests. Doctor Philip Nitschke, a passionate advocate of euthanasia, is determined to help Max achieve his goal. Aboriginal leaders announce their legal challenge to the law. Many Aborigines won't go near Darwin hospital in case they are 'euthanased'. Doctors practising euthanasia may be threatened with murder charges. Whilst Max endures inordinate pain, "not living, just existing", Dr Nitschke tries to find a doctor and a psychiatrist actually willing to help him carry out euthanasia. Shortly after this film was completed, Max Bell died from natural causes. In July 1996 the law became operational again. In practice, Max Bell's hopes of a painless death died with him. His dog and two cats were more fortunate: they found a peaceful end.