Really, does anyone ever get the chance to write the end to their story? In Bradley Berman’s documentary, Jack Has A Plan, he documents the final months of San Francisco musician and storyteller Jack Tuller. In 1994, Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor have given six months to live. Amazingly, after a series of surgeries and treatments, Jack was able to keep his tumor at bay and use the experience as an outlet for artistic expression.
Twenty-five years later, Jack began experiencing seizures and found difficulty speaking and pulling words together. It soon became clear that the tumor what growing again, and nothing was stopping it. Jack then made some drastic choices. First, he quit his job…without consulting his wife, Jennifer Cariño. She quickly realized that Jack’s days were numbered, and he wished to go out on his terms.
Jack Has A Plan explores the dynamics of California’s 2016 California End of Life Options Act, and Jack Tuller is the perfect subject on the matter. The film argues that a patient can bring an end to suffering by choosing when to die. Patients can die before losing their physical or mental capacities. Lastly, while doctors and medical professionals are charged to maximize one’s final days under the Hippocratic Oath, the financial burden is high, and the “reimagine death” movement reduces that burden.
“…quickly realized that Jack’s days were numbered, and he wished to go out on his terms.”
As Jack begins to countdown his days, he decides it’s time to tie up a few loose threads in his life, including mending his twenty-five-year-long estrangement with this mother. As a child, Jack was told that his biological father died driving his car off a cliff along the Northern California oceanside. While a remarkable but tragic story, Jack always had suspicions that it wasn’t true and began to investigate the whereabouts of his father…to surprising results.
Though Jack’s past is both uplifting and tragic, the heart of Jack Has A Plan comes in the final months leading up to Jack’s ultimate fate. Ending one’s life is not something anyone should take lightly. No one in Jack’s life, including his wife, friends, family, and specifically director Berman, wants him to go through with it. However, Berman makes the case that Jack has full awareness of his decision and takes us down the final celebration of Jack’s life.
I tend to lean on the camp that supports fighting for one’s life, but then again, I realize that sometimes the right thing to do is let nature take its course. Jack Tuller’s decision is different. With full awareness, he decides to end it now rather than face the reality of being hooked up to a myriad of cold “life-saving” hospital machines.
Is the legalization of suicide and Death With Dignity laws the right path for a society to go? That’s a much more considerable debate for philosophers and theologians. But maybe the exception of Jack Tuller is the one that makes the case. In the end, it’s hard to say that Jack made the wrong decision and if there’s an educational component to Jack Has A Plan, it’s in the final week leading up to this death as Berman walks us through every final step. Jack Tuller is an amazing man, and like many of his friends, I didn’t want to see his life end, but I get it.
Jack Has A Plan premiered at the 2022 Floria Film Festival. For more information, visit the Jack Has A Plan official website.
"…Is the legalization of suicide and Death With Dignity laws the right path for a society to go?"