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Euthanasia documentary Fade to Black to screen in Canberra

After receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis in early 2014, Peter Short spent his final months campaigning for law reform to allow him to die on his own terms.

The Coles Express chief executive's lobbying would see him have a phone conversation with then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott about changing voluntary-euthanasia legislation.

While Mr Short died in December 2014 following complications, his story will live on in a new documentary screening in Canberra this week.

Fade to Black, which centres on the final six months of Mr Short's life, will be shown at Dendy Cinemas on August 15, followed by a discussion with the film's director Jeremy Ervine, ACT Greens member Caroline Le Couteur and Peter's wife Elizabeth.

Ms Short said the film was a way to spark a debate about "dying with dignity".

"It's been two-and-a-half years since he died, and the legacy he has left with this documentary is about trying to change the laws around assisted dying," she said.

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"He knew that nothing was going to happen from a legislation-change viewpoint that was going to affect him before the end of his life. The film was his plan B, so his work wasn't wasted and could continue on."

The crowd-funded documentary also includes interviews on both sides of the debate, ranging from euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke to members of religious organisations.

The film's release coincides with voluntary euthanasia laws being presented to parliament in Victoria for debate in the coming weeks.

Mr Ervine first met Mr Short while organising an advertising campaign on euthanasia laws, and decided to instead make a documentary about Mr Short's experience.

"This was no ordinary campaign, a 30 to 60-second ad wouldn't do his mission justice," he said.

"We became close friends through the filming, but I had to prepare myself that in getting close to him, I know he was going to die within six months of getting to know him."

The film also shows the final moments of Mr Short's life after he moved into palliative care following a deterioration of his condition.

"He was in tremendous suffering and could hardly breath or talk," Mr Ervine said.

"Elizabeth was as committed to the project as I was, and she was holding a camera until Peter's last moments."

The filmmaker said he went into the documentary with an open mind, and aimed to see both sides of the debate.

"I think on a principled level, most people would say they support euthanasia, but haven't thought too much about it," he said.

"I look at it from an open point of view, the film doesn't conclude to what people should or shouldn't believe. People should make that decision themselves. I went in with an open mind, and every single person convinced me that they had a good argument for it."

The film has already screened in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, and Ms Short said she had been overwhelmed with the responses to it.

She said she hopes to see euthanasia laws pass in Victoria, which could trigger similar laws in other states.

"We'd be devastated if it didn't go ahead, and we'd be languishing in the back blocks for another 10 years, and we're anxious to see what happens."

Fade to Black is screening at 1.30pm and 6.30pm August 15 at Dendy Canberra.

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