The Sea Inside
December 17, 2004
Movie of the Day for Thursday, October 21, 2004
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“The dream has become a nightmare.”
So Ramon Sampedro wrote years ago in a poem. At the age of 29, Sampedro made the life-altering decision to jump into the sea from rocks near his home. What this vigorous young man failed to realize is that the water was far less deep than he had estimated, and he struck his head on the bottom.
This accident led to Sampedro’s full paralysis. Though his family was happy to care for him, he saw things differently, believing they were unfortunate physical and psychological slaves to his handicap. As time went on, Sampedro determined to develop his mind since his body was of no use to him, and he studied the work of such luminaries as Swift, Wilde, Flaubert and Camus. He even was able to design a mouth-operated device that enabled him to answer his telephone.
Despite his mental growth, Sampedro came to realize that he could not bear living the life of a brilliant man inside a shell of a body that he viewed as worthless. As a result, he chose to die, rejecting the church’s edict that it was morally wrong to do so. Over a period of five years, he sought out legal approval to allow someone to assist him in his own suicide, but met with obstacles at every level. Though he understood he could fast to death, Sampedro saw no reason to cause his family that kind of pain.
Eventually, Sampedro had friends take him away from his family’s farm and move him to an apartment some distance away. These friends took on the role of his caregivers. Eventually, reports came that Sampedro had died in his bed. The autopsy revealed traces of cyanide, which almost certainly indicated that he would have had assistance in the process. Nonetheless, his family never wished prosecution on those responsible for granting Sampedro’s wish.
This real-life story has been turned into a film by Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes), with Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem in the lead role. (Kim Hollis/BOP)