Central character, Ken Harrison, is a successful sculptor with a beautiful girlfriend. After seeing one of his own pieces erected as a public work of art, he is involved in a car wreck. He wakes up in hospital, to find himself paralyzed from the neck down.
As the months drag by, he becomes psychologically tortured. He is after all an intelligent and creative artist, whose passion and self-expression comes through working with his hands. Above all else, he lives to sculpt. Now that ability and freedom is gone forever. Finally, he decides that life isn’t worth living if he can’t live on his own terms – the way he wants.
Some of the nurses are sympathetic, while the inflexible doctor has a God-complex and sees death as an enemy to be beaten and life as survival no matter what. His own argument is that if someone has not reached their allotted three score years and ten – then they have no business dying!
Harrison, after thinking over his situation, the prospect of the years still to come, able to do nothing apart from being locked inside a paralyzed body, decides on a plan: to be released from the hospital so that he can be allowed to die.
He breaks off his relationship with his girlfriend and employs the services of an attorney to fight his case.
The doctor then fights back and attempts to have Harrison committed under the mental health act.The movie version was released in 1981 and stars Richard Dreyfuss as Harrison, with Christine Lahti, John Cassavetes, Bob Balaban and Kenneth McMillan. It’s under-rated and has since been largely forgotten, but it deserves recognition as a topical re-release.
This could have been both depressing and maudlin, but the script is written with a dry wit to reflect Harrison’s intelligence, sense of humor and sensitivity.
A thought-provoking play on self-euthanasia.
As the title and argument states: whose life is it anyway?