Living to the End

Living to the End

Cancer patient Lovelle Svart chose doctor-assisted suicide. Her last 3 months are chronicled in these 27 video diaries.
At 62, Lovelle Svart looked fit and healthy. But she wasn’t. When first diagnosed with lung cancer, her doctors said it would be miraculous if she lived two years. After nearly five years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the fatigue, pain and shortness of breath worsened and she was given just six more months to live. This in-depth series by the Oregonian chronicles the last three months of Svart’s life and her decision to choose doctor-assisted suicide.

In an effort to demystify dying, Svart wanted to go public with her journey. She shared her experience through 27 short interviews or talking-to-the-camera “video diaries.” Topics included: her relationship with her 90-year old mother, looking back on her past, on being a life-long smoker, her goal of finding peace and calm during her illness, on grieving, and on her love of Polka dancing. The online diary package also includes two photo galleries, four text articles, and comments from hundreds of readers who followed her journey through the website.

Oregon is the only state in the country where doctor-assisted suicide is legal and Svart had been a supporter of its Death with Dignity Act when attempts were made to overturn it. She knew ending her life, or “hastening death” as she called it, was an option for her. This series captures her contemplating that choice.

Once her physicians told her she would die within 6 months, she became eligible for doctor-assisted suicide. Although she preferred, she said, to die in her sleep from heart failure, she realized that was unlikely and she obtained the medications needed to end her own life. She was certain she did not want to die from being unable to breathe. As her condition worsened, she made her decision, planned a party and invited close friends and family to be there during her final hours. The Oregonian chose not to document her final day with video and instead used still photography and audio recordings to respect the privacy of some of Svart’s friends and family.

Svart’s sense of humor and tenacious spirit shine through in these videos, and on the day she died she got to dance the Polka one last time.

Multimedia Journalist: Rob Finch
Reporter: Don Colburn
Web Design: Ed Madrid
Team Leader, How We Live: Susan Gage
Managing Editor, Online: Michael Arrieta-Walden