The lie

If you knew your parent(s) or loved one had a terminal illness, would you let them know?

The movie “The Farewell” an American drama-comedy writtten and directed by LuLu Wang starring Awkwafina (of Crazy Rich Asians fame) is a beautiful story that tests the emotions, ethical pragmatism and reality of concealing a painful truth or telling the glamorous lie.

Caring for the elderly, more especially with they are sick, is challenging. And complicated. Decisions on health care, quality of life, and family responsibilities are dependent on multiple factors that interplay on who, what, why, when, where and how these decisions are arrived at.

The Farewell” is a heartbreaking melodramatic film that enmeshes cultural and societal beliefs against the modern day ethical discourse of autonomy.

In the movie, the children and grandchildren of Nai Nai travel back to Changchun China after finding out that the matriarch is recently diagnosed to have stage IV lung cancer and has 3-6 months left to live.

A wedding for Billi’s cousin to be held in China is used as a platform for the ‘final’ homecoming. Throughout the movie, the clash between Billi and the rest of the family over the “deliberate dishonesty” on her grandmother’s illness becomes the central theme of the story.

When the lie is a good lie, and allows the family to carry the emotional burden of the diagnosis rather than Nai Nai, the values one learns to grow up to actually make one reflect on what is good versus what is right.

Ethicists will always argue that patients have the right to know and the right to make personal decisions in matters pertaining to their health. This movie makes one pause long enough to agree, or disagree with decisions we make as healthcare providers and as patients.

After all, the care provided beyond measure should never always be measured on our yardstick of what we feel is morally correct. There is always a good lie…