The Controversy in 'Me Before You'

Since I got to the University of Florida, I haven’t had a lot of time to watch movies. There have been some good films that have slipped through the cracks simply because between classes, assignments, and organizations, it has been a struggle to find two hours where I can sit uninterrupted and watch a movie. Recently I was able to catch up on some missed movies after coming down with the flu. One of the films included Me Before You.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should know that there will be some huge spoilers ahead, so turn back now. Going into the movie, I truly had no clue what it was about. I had seen some previews, but that was back almost two years ago when the movie was released. Essentially, the plot of Me Before You follows a wealthy attractive man paralyzed after a tragic accident and an eccentric young woman who is hired to be his caregiver. The two end up becoming friends and even a little bit more, even though she has a long term boyfriend. Sounds romantic right? Something you’d want to watch when you are tired and have the flu? Wrong.

What the IMDb page won’t tell you is that Lou Clark, the caregiver, discovered that the man she takes care of, Will Traynor, has signed off on a physician-assisted suicide. For those who do not know what PAS involves a doctor intentionally providing a person with the knowledge, means or both required to commit suicide, including counseling, prescribing and supplying of the lethal doses of drugs.

The rest of the film, Lou is determined to show Will that his new lifestyle can still be lifegiving, even if he is bound to a wheelchair. Up to this point, the movie still sounds comically cliché and romantic. However, by the end of the film, Will decides to go through with his intended plan.

A movie that I originally thought would just leave me feeling sappy and romantic ended up making me feel sad and conflicted about PAS. Physician-assisted suicide is a controversial topic, let alone to be addressed in a romantic movie that’s main audience is young women. Here’s what I learned about the two sides of assisted suicide:

Supporters for assisted suicide laws believe that those who have the mental capability, and are suffering from incurable illnesses, should have the right to die if they choose. These advocates even think those that have access to potential life-saving treatments should have the ability, and freedom to end their own lives.

On the other side, some challenge passing laws to make assisted suicide legal. Those opponents believe PAS devalues a human’s life and many suffering from illnesses have undiagnosed depression that makes them unable to make an informed decision.

Most places in the United States still have laws in which PAS is illegal. The only states that have legislature where assisted suicide is legal is California, Oregon, Montana, Washington D.C. and Colorado.

A discussion that clearly will not be solved with a simple movie plot, physicians-assisted suicide is a controversy that has two very conflicting sides. What ‘Me Before You’ really taught me is that more conversations about hard topics should be in the media we consume. The only real way people on both sides of any debate can have a conversation is if a dialogue is started. More movies should seek to start these conversations. And, if we are truly a ~woke~ society, we should be seeking out movies and media that have these issues woven into the plot.