Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)

Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)

Taglines: You’ll have a lot of laughs …before you cry.

Ken Harrison is an artist who makes sculptures. One day he is involved in a car accident, and is paralyzed from his neck down. All he can do is talk, and he wants to die. In hospital he make friends with some of the staff, and they support him when he goes to trial to be allowed to die.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? is a 1981 film adapted by Brian Clark and Reginald Rose from a 1972 television movie and Clark’s play of the same title. The film is directed by John Badham and stars Richard Dreyfuss, John Cassavetes, Christine Lahti, Bob Balaban, Kenneth McMillan, Kaki Hunter, Alba Oms, and Janet Eilber.

About the Story

After a car accident, sculptor Ken Harrison becomes a quadriplegic and is no longer able to create art, make love or have any semblance of a normal existence. He hires a lawyer (Bob Balaban) who, reluctantly at first, represents Harrison to petition legally for the right to end his life, while knowing that he is trying to win his client a death sentence.

Staunchly opposed to euthanasia is a by-the-book hospital administrator (John Cassavetes), who is determined to keep his patient alive even against his wishes, and sympathetic doctor (Christine Lahti), who develops personal feelings for Harrison. She wants to keep him alive, even though Harrison’s girlfriend has accepted his decision.

A young orderly (Thomas Carter) and nurse (Kaki Hunter) do what they can to keep Harrison’s spirits up, even wheeling him to a hospital basement where they treat him to reggae music and marijuana. In the end, though, it is up to a judge (Kenneth McMillan) whether the patient has a moral, ethical and legal right to choose to die.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? Movie Poster (1981)

Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)

Directed by: John Badham
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, John Cassavetes, Christine Lahti, Bob Balaban, Kenneth McMillan, Kaki Hunter, Alba Oms, Janet Eilber
Screenplay by: Brian Clark
Production Design by: Gene Callahan
Cinematography by: Mario Tosi
Film Editing by: Frank Morriss
Costume Design by: Marianna Elliott
Set Decoration by: Jerry Adams
Art Direction by: Sydney Z. Litwack
Music by: Arthur B. Rubinstein
Distributed by: United Artists
Release Date: December 2, 1981