The Switch (1993) - full transcript

Larry McAfee is paralyzed from the neck down following a motorcycle accident. He gradually loses the will to live, in the meantime befriending a talk radio DJ (portrayed by Craig T Nelson) over the phone. The two meet each other and become friends, though Larry still wishes to end his life. The DJ reluctantly has a switch installed on Larry's life support that Larry can activate at any time (via his mouth) to end his life.

(Multicom jingle)

- [Frank] Larry, Larry, you okay?

Come on, buddy, talk to
me, Larry, oh my God.


- [Buddy] What happened, Frank?

- [Frank] Hey, Buddy, look at me, come on.

- [Carrie] Oh, God, he's not breathing.

Go call the paramedics.

- [Frank] Let me get you over here.

Larry, talk to me--
- Stay here, I'll go.

- [Paramedic] Hold his
neck steady, I got him.

(ambulance siren wails)

Watch your back, nurse, coming through.

- [Doctor] What happened to this guy?

- [Paramedic] Motorcycle,
he broke his neck.

- [Receptionist] Mr. Mailer?

- [Mr. Mailer] Yes?

- [Receptionist] The
doctor wants to see you.

- [Dr. Mailer] All right.

- What happened, Frankie?

All's they said was he
took a spill on the bike,

- Well, the fall didn't seem
that bad when it happened,

but then, that's all I know, really.

- Let me see what I can
find out here, ma'am?

- [Receptionist] Yes?

- [James] We're looking
for our son, Larry McAfee.

- [Amelia] Larry?

Larry, Larry?


- Larry, I'm Ben Greene
from physical medicine.

The medical staff's about
ready to hand you over to me.

- When do I get out of here?

- Well, you've got about 10
months of therapy ahead of you.

Larry, you'll be getting out of here,

but you won't be getting any better.

You're a C2, it's a high quadriplegic,

and that means paralysis
from the neck down.

- But how?

How am I gonna?

- That means a ventilator like this,

for the rest of your life.

(upbeat guitar music)

♪ You and me, we were the pretenders ♪

♪ We let it all slip away ♪

♪ In the end, what you don't surrender ♪

♪ Well, the world just strips away ♪

♪ Girl, ain't no kindness
in the face of strangers ♪

♪ We ain't gonna find no miracles here ♪

♪ Well, you can wait on
your blessings, my darling ♪

♪ I got a deal for you right here ♪

♪ I ain't looking for praise or pity ♪

♪ I ain't coming round
searching for a crush ♪

♪ I just want someone to talk to ♪

♪ And a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Just a little of that human touch ♪

(ventilator rings)

- It's okay.

♪ Ain't no mercy ♪

- That's your ventilator
alarm, it goes off

if anything blocks your air.

♪ From heavenly stars ♪

♪ Ain't nobody drawing
wine from this mud ♪

♪ It's just you and me tonight ♪

♪ Let me in on a world without pity ♪

♪ Do you think what
I'm asking's too much ♪

♪ I just want something to hold onto ♪

♪ And a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Just a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Let me in on a world without pity ♪

♪ Do you think what
I'm asking's too much ♪

♪ I just want to feel you in my arms ♪

♪ And share a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Share a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Feel a little of that
human touch from you ♪

♪ Feel a little of that human touch ♪

♪ Share a little of that human touch now ♪

♪ Feel a little of that human touch ♪

- [Larry] I'll call you.

- Okay.
(motorcycle engines revving)

- [Frank] Go Larry, woo.

♪ Oh, girl, I'm feeling
a (mumbles) prize ♪

♪ Well, it comes with a hard, hard price ♪

♪ You can't shut out
the risk and the pain ♪

♪ Without losing the love that remains ♪

♪ We're all riders on this train ♪

- Larry.

Larry, did you get her number?

- I'm an animal, Frank.

- What are you doing?

- Replay.

I play things over in
my head, football games

that we used to have, lectures at school.

Times with Charlene.

Or Linda.

Or Marilee.

- Marilee?

The redhead?

The one with the cashmere
sweaters, hmm, Marilee.

- Yeah.

I replay it all, man.

Especially the picnic.

When I met that girl.

Carrie Hadley.

And I still got her number
in the pocket of my jeans.

Hey, Frank?

You want to tell me something?

(Frank laughs)

- Yeah.

I'm getting married, Larry.

- Is that why you're so depressed, you.

I hear it's got its good points.

Regular sex, for one.

You remember how much we used to think

about Marilee when we
were in seventh grade?

Dancing close with her,
feeling that soft sweater.

Hell, we never did
anything, but we thought

about her all the time.

- Yeah.

- In my ward, there's a,

there's this one nurse in particular.

Hold out your hands.

(Frank laughs)

- You are shameless.

- You getting married back home?

- Yeah.

We were hoping you could come down.

- I don't know where I'll be, Frank.

My insurance money's run out.

- Larry, that was worth a million dollars.

- Breathing is a very expensive habit.


I don't want to go to Texas, I want,

I want to stay in Georgia.

- Georgia don't want you,
it's as simple as that.

- But I,

I pay taxes, I've got rights, dammit.

I'm gonna do something.

- Larry--
- About this, they can't--

- Larry.

There's a level of care that you need

in order to stay alive.

Now, this place in Texas
is willing to take you.

Your daddy and I would, but we just can't.

There's no other choice.

(slow music)

- Time to get some sleep, Mr. McGaffee.

- McAfee.

I want to call my parents,
tell them I got here okay.

- The supervisor will do
that for you, good night.

♪ Deck the halls ♪

- Oh, it's,

it's not so bad here, Mom.

♪ 'Tis the season to be jolly ♪

- Not so bad.

It doesn't need to be replaced this often.

Once every three or four months,

I mean, can you count to three?

- It's our policy, to
ensure against infection.

- That's crap, you just
want to bill Medicare again.

What's a matter, doc, they
gonna take your Mercedes?

- You know, McAfee, we don't
have to take this from you.

We could kick you out tomorrow,
right back to Georgia.

(fly buzzes)

- [Radio Announcer] We're
there to comfort you.

- I didn't get the skin treatment today.

- [Nurse] No, that's once a week.

- Well, can't you put some
music on or something?

There's nothing but
lousy talk on the radio,

all day and night.

- I understand you have
complaints, Mr. McAfee.

- My skin needs attention.

- Yes, yes, your skin, your
back, your hair, your radio.

You're not the only
patient here, you know.

Now, take your medication.

- What's that extra pill?

- [Nurse] Bath time.

- In the middle of the night?

- It's not the middle of the night,

Mr. McAfee, you're disoriented.

- [Larry] What the hell time is it?

- Bath time.

- I don't know what
they're giving me, Dad.

I can't think straight.

- So I understand you called
the state, what did they say?

They told you we had the right

to terminate your care, anytime, right?

Maybe you'll cooperate from now on.

- Maybe pigs will fly.

And maybe you'll pull your head out--

- All right, that's it.

You're nothing but trouble,
McAfee, pack your things.

- McAfee, they sent him over from Texas.

- Oh, yeah, McAfee, excuse me.

Bed three, over here,
10 minutes per visit.

- Well, why is he in intensive
care, what's happened to him?

- Nothing, we're just the
only place with a ventilator.

- They just dumped me here, Mom.

God, I don't have my clothes, my pictures.

- [Amelia] Your daddy
will be here tomorrow

and we'll figure out a way
to get you out of this place.

- This place, that place.

My life is hell, it really doesn't matter

which corner of hell they park me in.

- People like us don't give up.

- Mom, I'm not a person anymore.

I can't live like this.
(slow piano music)

- Excuse me, Larry McAfee?

- McAfee?


- Thank you.

Mr. McAfee?

I'm Randy Davis.

- I didn't know you were coming today.

- I tried to telephone.

- Telephone's are privilege around here.

The jailers don't give them to bad boys.

- Have you been a bad boy?

- I did the worst thing
I could possibly do.

- What's that?

- I asked for a lawyer.

- Well, here I am, your
friend Frank called me.

- Help me up.

- Right here?

- That's good.

Did he tell you what I want?

- Yes, he did, but I'd
rather hear it from you.

You're gonna have to tell
a whole lot of people,

one way or the other.

- Then I'll tell them.

I don't know if people want to listen.

People like their horror
stories nice and tidy, you know?

Well, they saved me,

but then they tell me this
is how I have to live.

Well, it's been four years
since I had my accident,

and in that time, I've tried,
I really have tried to adjust

to this.

But I can't.

Right now, I just, I want to end it.

Turn off this damn machine
that breathes for me

and go back to where I was, on the side

of that mountain road, and just die,

like I damn well should have.

- Do you consider it suicide?

- The ventilator is unnatural,
I just want to take it away.

- To be more precise,
you want someone else

to take it away for you.

- No, no, I've designed a switch
that I can activate myself.

- You designed it?

- I designed it, yes.

I'm a mechanical engineer,
mister, I'm not brain dead.


What I can't do myself is
build it or install it.

I need help with that part.

And that person who helps
needs to be protected

from criminal charges.

- I understand, may I speak frankly?

Your friend Frank warned
me, and now I can see it

for myself, you've got
quite a mouth on you.

- It's the only part that survived.

- If I take this case, I intend to win it.

The only way I can do that is if you learn

to control your anger and your tongue.

- I can do it.

- You have a mother and
a father, is that right?

- Yes, and I've talked to them about this.

- So will I.

- They want what I want.

- So do I.

- This is "The Fine Line,"
Birmingham's premier 120 minutes

of talk issues and bombast,
my name is Russ Fine,

and in our studio today is
the lovely Elizabeth Garland,

a member of the Universal Pro Life League.

Liz's group is more than against abortion,

they are also dedicated
to the preservation

and creation of life everywhere,
is that about right, Liz?

- The life force should
never be squandered.

- Well, for those of you just tuning in,

I've already talked to
Liz about mosquitoes

and Gila monsters, and she believes

that they should be fruitful
and multiply, as well.

So this sounds hot, let's
get those phones going.

Don't ask me, talk to
her, we have some calls,

let's go now to caller, yes,
you are on "The Fine Line."

- [Caller] Do you think birds
are reincarnated people?

- No, I'm a Christian,
but I have great respect

for the Jains and other
rural sects of India,

for whom reincarnation is essential to--

- We do not have an audience

in India, Liz, and unfortunately,

we don't have any
advertisers there, either.

So we'll have to take
another call, this one from?

- Atlanta.

- Atlanta, Georgia, home
of the Georgia peach.

You are on "The Fine Line."

- [Caller] Hey, what
about somebody who wants

to kill themself, like this McAfee guy?

He's got a pretty damn good reason,

and it'll save us taxpayers a bundle.

- Hey, now, wait a minute, I was

with you there up until the end.

Larry McAfee, for those
of you who don't know,

is a motorcycle accident
victim, a quadriplegic,

who has petitioned the state
of Georgia for the right--

- Listen, Mr. McAfee.

- [Russ] To kill himself.

- You're on the radio.

- [Caller] Oh, come on, Russ.

- The hell I am.

- Are they talking about you?

- [Caller] Now, I don't see why

my tax dollars should be
spent to keep this guy alive.

This government's doing
nothing but spending my money.

First they bail out the SNLs,

then they're bailing out the Arabs.

It's just Big Brother, if you ask me.

- Who asked you?

- [Caller] I'm sicked and tired of it.

- Why don't you take your tax money,

buy yourself another
six pack, get yourself

in your pickup truck,
break your own damn neck,

and then come to me and holler

about how Big Brother
is helping the disabled.

This is Russ Fine, have
a good Birmingham night.

- [Radio Announcer] In Tuscaloosa,

the temperature's around 88 degrees.

In Montgomery, it's 84
degrees in our state capital,

and in Mobile and Biloxi, near 93 is--

- Where the hell did you dig her up?

- You asked for her, you wanted

to broaden the pro-life audience.

- Hell, I didn't want to include India

and the Insects First League.

- [Radio Announcer] 84
degrees in our state capital.

- Now, this is the kind of
stuff we should be going after.

This is real.

- I'll try and set it up.

- [Radio Announcer] Now,
unseasonably cool air will

once again cover the
northern tier of the state.

- I cannot believe the
cruelty of these people.

Just as soon as he files his case,

ship him off to Alabama.

Sell his contract, they
said, just like before,

just like Texas.

Just like he was a sack
of rotten potatoes.

- I talked to Larry's lawyer.

He's gonna get the judge to
hold the hearing right there

in the hospital, before they can move him.

- Hey, Judge Johnson has
agreed to come here today

in advance of your hearing
because you're being transported

to Alabama against your will.

There may not be a second chance.

- Thank you, your honor.

- Mr. McAfee, what was your work

before your motorcycle
accident, on May 5th, 1987?

- I was an engineering projects manager.

- [Judge Johnson] And what did you like

to do for recreation?

- Be outside,

anything outdoors.

Hunting, fishing, golf, skiing,


Couldn't wait to get outside.

- How often do you go outside now?

- Hardly ever.

- Mr. McAfee, I'd like to
quote from your deposition.

"I've been rendered helpless
and without enjoyment in life.

"It is my sincere wish that I be allowed

"to terminate my medical treatment

"by orally activating a switch

"that will turn the ventilator off."

Is that a true indication of your wishes?

- You get to the point where you realize,

this is your life,

and in my case, it's

ceased to be worth living.

- Mr. McAfee, since your accident,

have you found any moments
of joy in your life?

Perhaps some time with your family,

or even a day in the outdoors?

- Yes, a few times.

- And at those times, did
you want to kill yourself?

- Maybe not right then, but--

- But now, at this moment, you want to?

Which are we to believe is
your permanent state of mind?

- Permanent?

You ask me that?

What the hell do you know about it?

Now, you can walk out that
door back to your office

with the big window.

You can change your designer
suits all by yourself.

You can decide how fast you
breathe, for God's sake.

Don't you dare

ask me about permanent, I know permanent.

And I am the resident
expert here on permanent.

- Sir, this is the switch.

- Excuse me.

And Mr. McAfee designed this device

so that he could throw it himself, without

setting off the alarms that
are built into the ventilator?

- That's right, your honor,
nobody will know except Larry.

- I support his decision.

And I.

I'm sorry.

- It's all right, Mr. McAfee.

- It was the hardest thing I've
ever had to do, your honor.

To give up my boy,

to have him ask,

and have me

to say yes,

but I am convinced

it's what he wants.

And I do believe he is
going to a better place.

- [James] Your honor, I'd
like to say something.

- Certainly.

- There's a state prison
not far from my home.

And in there,

a killer.


are paid to work,

and to go to school.

Larry ain't never broke a law in his life,

but all the state can find for him is a.

(slow piano music)

And I live in Georgia, I was born here.

I've never carried a protest sign,

I always paid my taxes.

But the state has betrayed me.

Me and my family.

And next time, I reckon maybe
I just won't pay my taxes.

They go ahead on throwing
me in jail if they want to,

just so they make the cell big enough

for me to take care of my boy.

- Mr. and Mrs. McAfee,

I think your son is a
very courageous young man

from a very courageous family.

I've been moved

by what has obviously
been a terrible struggle,

which no family should have to endure.

Because of the ramifications,
this has been one

of the most difficult decisions I've had

to make on the bench.

I hereby grant his request
that a switch be installed,

which he can operate independently

to shut off the ventilator.

If there is a death, it will be a result

of the original injury,
and not self inflicted.

I wish you all the best.

- The really shocking thing

about this case is the message the state

of Georgia's sending to
its disabled citizens.

- [Audience Member] That's right.

- We won't pay for you to
have a decent, hopeful life.

We won't help you find a
way to live independently,

to earn a salary, to contribute.

The court will, however,
offer another solution,

the easy solution, the one
that gets you off our hands

and off our books.

And one more thing.

We will be watching
this case very closely.

Anyone who assists in McAfee's
suicide had better have

his ducks all in a row, or
he will be facing charges.

- What are your plans?

- Well, I thought I'd spend
one more Easter with my family.

- One final piece of advice,
we won the decision today,

but tomorrow, someone
may challenge the ruling,

and Georgia's Supreme
Court reversal would put

you right back where you were before.

- So what you're saying
is don't wait too long.

- That's right.

- I understand, thank you.
(slow piano music)

(slow piano music)

(overlapping chattering)

- Hi, may I help you?

- I'm Dr. Fine, I'd like to
see Larry McAfee, if possible.

- Are you assigned to
his treatment, Doctor?

- No.

- You're a friend?

- More of an opportunity.

- [Hank] There's some Dr. Fine to see you.

- You can tell some Dr. Fine
to stop wasting his time.

- Huh, you don't like doctors, huh?

- If I ever met one who was worth a damn,

I might change my mind.

- Well, then you'll be pleased

to know I just told them I was a doctor.

- A Dr. Liar?

That's a step up.

- Well, I received an honorary doctorate

from my alma mater a few years ago.

The doctor kind of comes in handy

when I'm trying to find
elusive sources like yourself.

- What am I a source of?

- News, I'm Russ Fine, I'd like
you to be on my radio show.

- Yeah, "Fine Line," I know that show.

Now, you talk trash there. (laughs)

Yeah, but it's not to my taste.

I prefer a little Miles Davis.

- Sorry, so have you heard
of our show, Mr. McAfee?

- It seems like I've
already been on your show.

- You listened the other night?

- I didn't have a choice,
and I didn't like it.

- Well, not having any control over

what people say about you,
that's the price you pay

for being a public figure.

- I have no control over people
putting their hands on me

or in me, that's being a public figure.

- Well, you gotta be fair, Larry,

I defended you the other night.

Hell, I think most of my listeners
would pull your plug just

to save a few bucks on April 15th.

- My fellow Georgians.

- Well, you've got a story
everybody wants to listen to,

and I'd you to be a guest on my show.

- Mr. Fine,

you don't see how hard it
is for my man to travel.

His wheelchair is so high,

and the roof of the ambulance is--

- He can do it right
from here on the phone.

- Phone's a problem
too, see, somebody's got

to hold it for him, dial, hang up.

There'd be only two of us here at night.

- That's a problem?

You're gonna have one.

Yeah, all right, there it is.

Yeah, hey, Larry, what would you say

if you could use a hands-free
phone from your bed?

- I'd say I'd consider it.

- I'll be back in an hour.

All right.

There you go.



just blow into the tube a couple of times,

and then ask the operator to dial for you.

- You're kidding.

- No, I'm surprised you never
had one of these things.

They're pretty standard
these days, you know.

- Hey, Fine.

Sorry I called you a doctor.

- Yeah, I gotta run,
Larry, I'll talk to you.

- I'll call you.

(Russ laughs)

- [Caller] My nephew had
a really bad accident,

and well, we were trying
to keep his spirits up,

and then along comes McAfee.

- So what about that, Larry,
are you setting a bad example?

- I get real sick of that question.

I pleaded my case for
myself, I don't tell anyone

to do the same thing, and
I don't remember any rule

which says when your body goes dead,

you gotta become some
kind of damn cheerleader.

- [Caller] Why don't
you just do it, McAfee,

and save us all your damn whining?

It ain't nothing but a big bluff.

- [Larry] It's all a bluff, huh?

Well, let me tell you something,

you pig-eyed sack of (beep).

There's not an inch of bluff in my life,

and if you had something
besides (beep) for brains,

you'd realize how (beep) serious I am.

- Larry, hold it, you're blowing
my callers out of the sky.

- [Larry] Well, maybe your (beep) callers

should (beep) stay a little
(beep) closer to earth.

- I've wanted to say that for years.

- [James] We tried, we
just couldn't get it.

- [Larry] So you couldn't tune it in, huh?

- [James] No, sir.

- Well, maybe I can get you
a recording of the show.

- [James] Well, we'd like to hear it, so.

- Listen, Dad, there's
somebody here right now.

I'll call you later, okay?

- [James] You bet, talk to you, now.

- Bye.

- [James] Bye.

- Hi, I'm Dee Fine, I
produce "The Fine Line,"

and in my spare time, I'm Russ's wife.

- A woman of the '90s.

- I brought a copy of last night's show,

you were really great.

- Thank you very much.

- I'll put it in for you if you show me

where the cassette player is.

- [Larry] I don't have one.

- Okay, well, this
shouldn't take very long.

- What are you doing?

- Well, I.

Well, the show's over,
and this equipment is.

What am I doing?

Have you got a phone I could use?

It'll just take a minute.

- Outside.

(Dee laughs)

Hey, thanks.

You bet.

Here. (background noise
drowns out speaker)


Dr. Fine.

- [Russ] Hey, Larry.

- Hell, I never realized
how much I missed talking

to my family privately.

- Well, glad you enjoyed it.

- I'd like to buy this phone from you.

Now, Dee told me about what it costs.

- We could write it off, Russ.

- Well, hell, I mean,
just keep it as a gift

from the show, Larry.

- Russ, I couldn't do that.

- Well, I bet you could if you tried.

Did you listen to it?

- I have no way.

- He doesn't have a cassette player.

Larry said they have these units now

with infrared remote control.

- Well, now, you have a charm inside

of that mouth of yours, too, don't you?

- What do you mean?

- I mean, my wife doesn't
usually succumb to sweet talk.

- Well, maybe I don't
hear it often enough.

Hey, Larry, do you ever
get out of this place?

- I go to the university for tests.

- Well, that can't be much fun.

- No.

No, ma'am, it's not.

- Excuse me, what's going on here?

- I'm going to the
university for my tests,

then I'm gonna hang out.

- That's very nice, Mr. McAfee,

but who's gonna take responsibility?

- I am.

- No, I mean, who's gonna be
responsible in case of a--

- I am.

I am sane, I'm an adult, and
I'm responsible for myself.

And I'm going to the university.

- I don't care what Larry says,

I am holding you responsible
for him, Dr. Fine.

- Mrs. Linson, we are simply--

- There is nothing simple
when it comes to Larry McAfee,

and that is the first
thing you'd better learn.

(slow synth music)

(overlapping chattering)

(slow piano music)
(overlapping chattering)

(Dee laughs)

- Hey, Larry, you don't mind
if Dee takes some pictures

of us, do you?

- No.

- Okay, that's good, that's good.

- Huh?

Come on, Larry, let me see.

(ambulance siren wails)

(Larry chokes)
(ventilator rings)

It came up so fast.

It sounds like his lungs
are filled with fluid.

- Well, he gets these every now and then,

but luckily this one
isn't too bad, please.

- [Russ] So how you doing?

- Okay.

- You really had us worried.

I thought it was something I did.

- You're not responsible for me.

- Linson says I am.

- Where's Dee?

- She had to go back,
prepare tomorrow's show.

- What's it on?

- [Russ] Sports scholarships.

- You do cover a lot of ground.

- That's why I'm only skin deep.

- Right.

- So did you have a good time today?

- Sure did.

Days like this, I,

I can almost forget.

Did you get everything you needed?

- What do you mean?

- Publicity pictures of
the quad of the year?

- As I recall, I asked your permission.

- What if I said no?

- Then we wouldn't have
taken the pictures.

You see, Larry, I'm trying
to protect your rights,

even though you're bound and
determined to give them away.

- I'm not giving away nothing.

- Oh no?

Then I'll take as many pictures
of your corpse as I want to.

(Larry gurgles)


Oh, God.

Mrs. Linson?


(Larry laughs)

What are you doing?

- Looks like those pictures of
my corpse will have to wait.

- What's your problem, McAfee?

I am trying to help you.

- That's my problem.

- What?

- I was hoping you were just out

to make a couple of bucks off my ass.

But no, you want to help.

You want to talk me out of
killing myself, don't you?

- I'm as hard headed as
anybody, except maybe you,

and I'm not trying to
talk you out of anything.

I would like to talk you
into saying thank you,

just once in a while.

(slow piano music)

- So what do you think of my husband?

- I think he's a lucky man.

- And?

- I don't think he knows how lucky he is.

- And?

It's all right, I like a man who knows how

to keep his mouth shut.


Other side.

- You're sweet to do this, Mrs. Fine.

- If you don't stop calling me Mrs. Fine,

I'm not gonna do your mustache.

(both laughing)


Are you peeking down my dress?

(both laughing)

- Hell, I ain't sure I trust him.

- Well, he did get Larry a phone

so we could talk to him regular.

- Why?

- He came the night of
Larry's last seizure.

- Well, I don't like that,
either, we wasn't even called.

(slow piano music)

- There you go.

You want more?

- No, no.

- [James] Well, your mom's
still making these big,

old, fresh peach pies every Easter.

It's gotta be fresh peaches,
we out looking for that stuff.

We were out half the night last night.

- Oh, Ms. Linson didn't
tell me you had company.

- Oh, no, why don't you join us?

I'm Larry's mother, Amelia McAfee.

- [Russ] Russ Fine.

- Oh, this is my husband, James.

- [Russ] How do you do?

- Hi there.

- Listen, I really have to get back,

but Dee wanted you to have
this, Larry, thank you.

Boy, you can never get too much pie, huh?

- You can stay, it's okay.

- I know, I really have to
go, but I'll be back tomorrow.

- Will you?

- Yeah.

Pleasure meeting you.

- I think I'm getting kind of tired,

could I transfer to bed?

- Yeah, sure thing.

- Jimmy, why don't you
go get yourself some air?

I'll help tuck Larry in.

Here we go.
(slow piano music)

Your Great Aunt Leonore,

the one who sent you the gooseberry jelly,

she is going to be 90 years
old come this November.

- How about that?

- We're planning a big
reunion party in Augusta,

and the local hospital there says

they just might let you spend the night.

- I won't be there, Mom,
I thought you understood.

- Well, Larry, I just, I thought that

with all your new friends here and all.

- Nothing's changed.

- We can still fight this thing, Larry.

- No, Mom.

It's your turn to stop fighting

and take some rest.

Like you should have been
able to a long time ago, it's

like I stayed a little
baby all these years.

I should have grown up.

- You can never grow up that much.

- So Larry, you knew I was a boxer, right?

Yeah, I get whipped pretty
good in my last bout.

And I could have beat
him, (laughs) El Cubano.

Tough little dude.

So, the count's at zip,
and I could barely see,

blood's coming out of my eyes,

and I'm about ready to go down myself.

So I look over there, and
there he is, getting up.

I told the referee, I said,

"Don't you let the sucker
get up from there," oh!

(ventilator beeps)

- Let me up.

- Help, he's on the floor!

- [Larry] Well, lift me
up, you dumb bastard.

- [Hank] I need help on the floor.

- [Russ] There was some kind of incident,

and now he's throwing a fit.

- Is he okay?

- Apparently.

- Then what do they need you
for, you're not his doctor.

- Mrs. Linson says I'm the only one

that can calm him down,
she says he listens to me.

- He does.

- But why does everybody seem to think

that Larry and I have this special bond?

Hell, all we does is argue.

- Between two argumentative
people, that is a bond.

- I'm sorry, but his parents
live in the next state,

and I didn't know who else to call.

- It's okay.

- Mr. Fine, you're his friend.

- So they keep telling me.

- Look, we're not against
Larry here, it's just that all

of these negative episodes
just keep piling up.

He could just use some
straightening out on a few things.

- Like what things?

- Well, he could be a
lot nicer to the staff,

he could conform to the schedule.

But sometimes it seems like
all he can do is complain.

- That is all he can do.

- I see, you're his friend, not ours.

- Mrs. Linson, he's the
one that needs a friend.

- Best of them got the
brains of squirrels.

"Just follow the schedule, Larry,"

and, "shut your mouth, Larry," and

"what does it matter to
you, Larry, you thing,

"you side of meat, you living mouth.

"What's he complaining
about, we didn't drop him.

"Hell, he'd know if we dropped him,

"Hank caught him in time."

- Well, he did catch you.

- Break out the champagne.

I've had it.

I can't live in fear
and anger all the time.

- Then don't.

Move beyond them.

- I'm going to.

The time has come.

- [Russ] It's not what I meant.

- I know.

Now, you don't like it when
I talk about dying, do you?

- No.

- Why is that?

- I had this

friend in high school,
he was a good friend.

He had bone cancer,

he was in terrible pain
and he was dying, and

my father and I went up to see him.


"Dr. Fine, do something.

"Please, take me out of the pain.


- Did you?

- Dr. Fine was my father.

Fortunately Mike died shortly after that.

But I always wondered, what would I do?

What was the right thing,
what was the ethical thing?

What would I do when I became a doctor?

- You never became a doctor.

- Right.

I quit med school after a couple of years.

Show business, you know.

I became a personality
rather than a person,

that's what my dad said, anyway.

Larry, I came here to do a talk show, but

I found out that

I need to answer that question.

- I want to die, now.

Think back to your friend.

Please, help me end it.

- How?

- Install the switch.

- The fact that you're even
considering this makes me crazy.

You could be charged with homicide.

You could serve years in prison.

- Larry's court decision
could stand as a precedent.

- Larry went to court in
Georgia, this is Alabama.

- I know what state I'm in, Dee.

- I hope you--
- What?


- I hope you're not thinking
that this'll be a story for us,

that somehow we could get the
rights to Larry's suicide.

(slow piano music)

- Hey, Larry.

It seems so cold.

- Wanting to be here, to help me,

to be a part of it, that
seems like a kindness,

but it's not.

I have to have control, Russ.

I need control over this one thing.

- Well, I,

if I believe that people like
you should have all the rights

of others, then

this right has to be one of them.

I'll do that favor.

If you ask.

- I do ask.

(slow synth music)

- Are you Russ?

- Yes.

- I don't know,

do I thank you?

(switch beeps)

- Larry, I've done as you asked.

Three short puffs, that stops your air.

- Thank you.

- See you tomorrow?

- You bet.

- Hey, Larry, y'all
sleeping in this morning?

Hey, Larry, you awake?

(phone rings)

- Hello?

Hi, Larry.

No, no, no, we're awake, yeah.

- Hey, Larry.

How you doing?

Yeah, I'll be right there.

- What happened last night?

- Nothing.

- Nothing?

Or nothing you can tell me about?

(slow piano music)

- Dee.

Something did happen.

- I really looked it
in the face last night,

I was right there.

No judges, no lawyers, no press,

just me and that switch.

I want to thank you.

And you gave me something

I can control


And I'd forgotten what that was like.

- How does it make you feel?

- I want more.

More control over my life.

- Well, that you're gonna
have to get for yourself.

- [Operator] Operator.

- Yes, operator, I'm a disabled user.

- [Operator] Yes?

- Would you look for a
number and connect me?

- [Operator] And the
party's name and city?

- The Fullan House Center

for Independent Living, Birmingham.

- [Meredith] I think it's
another sub directory.

(overlapping chattering)

- The star has arrived.

- I'm not a star.

- Modesty becomes a star most.

I'm surprised, though,

this is the last place I'd
expect Larry McAfee to visit.

- Why?

- Well, ain't nobody here gonna
throw that switch for you.

Come on, I'll show you around.
(slow piano music)

Most everybody works,
and we pool our funds.

We hire full-time attendants.

Of course, we fire them,
too, if they don't work out,

see, it's a business, not a charity.

- Begin line.

Move up.

Move up, move up,

move up.

Move up, move up.

End line.

- [Meredith] You're
learning this pretty fast.

Now, take a look from the top, say, "3D."

- 3D.

That's amazing.

- What software are you using now?

- None.

(overlapping chattering)

- You want to give some of
these things here a try,

well, then I'm your friend,
all these people are.

- And if I don't?

- You keep going ahead with
this death switch thing,

and we're gonna fight you, we have to.

You see, it's just too damn convenient

for the rest of the world to
have us killing ourselves.

(ventilator beeps)

(Larry gurgles)

- This was a bad one,
but his lungs are clear

and the EEG is settling down.

- Is he okay?

What brings these things on?

- I think this is emotional distress.

It's like in the last few days,

Larry's had a lot on his mind.

Are you planning on
staying until he wakes up?

- Yes, I am.

- Good, because after
an episode like this,

a lot of severely disabled patients,

when they wake up, they're very depressed.

I know you're familiar with
Larry's legal action in Georgia.

I guess what I'm saying
is, you're his friend.

So in the next few days,

I would do my best to

watch him.

- I understand.

Been a real battle of
wills, hasn't it, Larry?

You won most of the
rounds, but I got you now.

Hell, I put this damn thing
in, maybe I should take it out.

I mean, at least until you,

what, get that old bounce
back in your stride?

I'm not gonna play God, Larry,

I'm not gonna go back on my word.

You're in control.

(Larry cries)

(slow piano music)

- Larry, are you okay?

Are you crying because we
interfered and saved your life, or

because you came close and
then were afraid to die?

- Afraid.

- [Bill] Welcome to Fullan House, Larry.

- Thank you, so where is everybody?

- Where is everybody, everybody's at work.

We got no stars here, Mr. McAfee.

Pull attitude, find yourself eating alone.

- I can't eat alone.

- I know.

- Well, talk about some attitude.

(Bill laughs)

- No, I'm glad I could
get you in here, Larry,

but it's only temporary.

I don't even have a real room for you,

you're gonna have to bunk in the library.

- I appreciate it.

- I'll be out in the
garden if you need me.

- Linson said I had to
read you this release form.

But hell, you're on your
own, Jack, good luck.

- Listen, Hank,

I don't know how to thank you,

especially after the things I called you.

- Long forgotten.

- I wish I'd seen that fight.

- [Hank] Which fight?

- El Cubano.

(Hank laughs)

- See you around, Hank.

You gonna be okay?

- Yeah, I think I'll be all right,

if I can stay clear of her, huh?

- Well, if you need anything,
you just give me a call.

- You bet.

Thanks, Russ.

(slow piano music)

Move up, move up, move up.

Move right.

Move down.





Turn off.


Turn off.

- [Dee] You miss him, don't you?

- [Russ] Not that much.

- Why don't you call him?

- I'm yesterday's friend, that's good.

What was that for?

- For what you did.

- You don't know what I did.

- All right.

Then it's just for being you.

- At night, we cook our own meals,

and most of the rent is
paid by the people who work.

- It's an amazing place, amazing.

- Hey, Larry.

- How you doing?

- Looks like you made
yourself some new friends.

- Looks like that gal's got
it kind of sweet for you.

- She's nice to everybody.

She is.

(slow orchestral music)

(Meredith knocks)


How's it going?

- I saw your light on.

- KC.


Turn off.

- Your mom and dad go back to the hotel?

- Yeah, come on in.

- They seem like good people.

- The best.

- You've got a lot of
people that care about you.

It's good, Larry.

- Did you come here to tell me that?

- No.

Just looking in on you.

- Well, I'm okay, I'm

not planning on doing myself in.

- Great.

- Hey, hey, wait, wait.

What is it, what's up?

- You're not the only one
who thinks about it, McAfee.

- You always seem so damn happy.

- Maybe I find it boring to
bitch about what I don't have.

It's funny.
(slow piano music)

Your legs don't work,
your arms don't work.

You need that ventilator just to breathe,

and I'm envious of you.

- Why?

- You have parents that love you.

- [Larry] Where are your parents?

- St. Louis.

- It's not so far.

- It could be the moon.

Oh, sure, they feel real sorry for me,

but they find being around
cripples terribly depressing.

- You feel that?

- [Meredith] What?

- My arm around you.

It's pulling you close.

- Thanks, Larry.

- What for?

- [Meredith] For being here.

- Where do I stand?

- [Bill] I wish I had access
to state funds, but I don't.

- Well, how much longer
can y'all carry him?

- Four weeks, maybe five.

- This never ends.

- I'm not going back to a nursing home.

(slow piano music)

- My God, just once, I wish
he could hear some good news.

(Russ knocks)

- Not now.

- If not now, when?

- Russ?


How are you?

- Fantastic.

Well, you look like you're
pretty much at home in here.

- Not for long.

- Yeah, hey, how come when you need help,

I gotta hear about it from your mom?

- There's nothing you can do.

- It's my time to waste, Larry.


Does this thing

work with hands?

Okay, so this is a story
of a man with a big mouth.

Okay, for real, a man
who once wanted to die,

to kill himself, but who
now chooses to go on living.

The question is, is
there a meaningful life

for such a man in the state

of Georgia?

How's that sound?

- Swell.

- Come on, Larry, I need your help.

Now, I'm writing it,
Franklin's gonna send it

to his political contacts, your job is

to get those McAfee fires burning again.

- What good will that do?

- What good does depression do?

- Less far to fall.

(phone rings)

- Hello?


No problem, Senator.

Yes, Senator Shumake, I remember your name

from the mailing list, sir.

No, I,

you are the only one who has responded.

Wonderful, what we are asking

for is the state just try the
independent living concept.

No, not even a pilot program.

Sir, we are running out of time.

"We provide necessary care,
we provide adequate care,

"but we do not provide, and
for lack of a better word,

"Cadillac care, that is
true, that is a fact."

That quote belongs to Aaron Johnson,

Georgia's State Human
Services Commissioner.

He has more recently said
that he's not even sure,

Larry, that you're still
a resident of Georgia.

- I am a Georgia citizen, born and raised.

And I want to go back to
be close to my family,

but I will not go back to a nursing home.

- Well, Larry, the
reality is, you're broke,

and that is the only kind of care

that the state will provide.

- I will not go back.

- [Russ] All right, then,
let's go to the phone lines.

Caller, you are on "The Fine Line."

- [Caller] Larry, I heard
you're being invited

to go back to Georgia next week
to speak to the legislature.

- That hasn't been confirmed yet.

- [Caller] But if you go back to Atlanta,

you could have the switch put in?

- Right.

- [Caller] You could
throw the switch back,

too, isn't that right, right
on the State House steps,

with no harm to anybody that helps.

- That's right, when I'm in Georgia.

- [Caller] So what are you planning to do?

- I plan

never to go back to a nursing home.

(slow piano music)

(overlapping chattering)

- Larry McAfee, I'm
Senator Hildred Shumake.

- Senator, I want to
thank you for your help.

- Well, Larry, I'm just
glad that you could be

with us today.

Besides, Larry, you and I
are pretty much the same age,

from the same part of the state.

Now, if we can't support
each other, who's gonna?

You did vote for me, didn't you? (laughs)

Now, look, Larry, we're going in there.

I can't do anything about that
seating, you understand that?

And some of the ornery
(mumbles) state birds are

gonna be sitting there
right in that front row,

and they're gonna be looking
at you right in the eye.

- I'll look them back.

- There you go.


At my invitation, please,
give your attention

to Larry McAfee.

- Thank you for the
opportunity to be here today.

I am deeply grateful for this
chance to speak with you,

and to plead for your help.

In 1987,

I broke my neck in a traffic accident,

and in an instant, my life changed.

For five years, I have been
paralyzed from the neck down.

I must rely on a machine
to pump air into my lungs.

I cannot feed myself,

nor can I empty my bladder
or my bowels without the help

of another person.

I never dreamed such a
thing could happen to me.

No one ever does.

I'm a young man, I want to work.

Young men should work and pay their taxes.

But that is not my fate.

Mine is an existence
without choice or control,

away from family and friends.

Imagine being 34 years old and having,

as your only companions, elderly,

ventilator-dependent patients
whose minds have ceased

to function long ago.

Now, I call it prison.

What else should I call it?

What I am pleading for here today is

that changes be made in a system

that pays hundreds of dollars a day

for us to be warehoused and forgotten

in high tech facilities
which we do not require,

need, or want.

And instead, to have a
fraction of that money

be redirected to independent
living opportunities.

Now, the models for such
places are out there,

they exist in many other states.

I see you are looking at me.

I'm used to that.

But as you look and listen
to the constant sucking

of my breathing machine, you remember

that in an instant,
this can happen to you.

Or worse,

to someone you love.

Remember James and Amelia McAfee,

their bravery and their pain,
as they fought a whole state

for the sake of their son.

We do not ask for charity.

By helping us, you help yourselves,

because in the final analysis, we are

each our brothers' keepers.

(slow synth music)

Thank you.

(group applauds)

- [Audience Member] Yeah.

- I've done as you've asked.

- Thank you.

- See you tomorrow?

- You bet.

(slow piano music)

(slow synth music)

(slow piano music)

(slow music)