Bioethics Blogs

STATES OF GRACE: Disability and Chronic Pain as a Bioethical Issue

STATES OF GRACE is a “must watch” film for health care providers. It deals with the health of caregivers, professionals and families, as well as that of persons who have become disabled. In STATES OF GRACE, Dr. Grace Dammann, is a revered physician who signed more than one thousand death certificates during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2008, just before memorial day, while commuting from work, another driver crashed head-on into her car as she crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. 

After seven weeks in a coma and twelve surgeries, Grace regains consciousness, her cognitive abilities surprisingly intact though her body left shattered. That’s the easy part of the story. When Grace returns home, following a year in rehabilitation hospitals, consummate Filmmakers Helen S. Cohen and Marc Lippmann shadow her and her family. Four years later, Grace remarkably returns to work, in her wheelchair, to serve in an innovative pain clinic that cares for San Francisco’s most resource stressed communities. The film’s eloquence is underscored by the work of acclaimed editor Kenji Yamamoto. 

To be honest, as stated on this site in 2010, “Grace’s life and persona before the accident was remarkable.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented Grace the Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award for her care of thousands of AIDS patients, during the era when HIV/AIDS was always a death sentence. How Grace and her family became a part of Isabel Allende’s extended family is reflected in the author’s memoir sequel, The Sum of Our Days. A Buddhist, the extraordinary relative sparing of Grace’s cognitive function seems a gift of her mindfulness practice. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.