"ER" Episode To Draw Attention To ALS And End-Of-Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 31, 2006
NEW YORK, NEW YORK--Thursday's episode of NBC's "ER" is likely to gain a lot of viewers for the medical drama and educate viewers about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- more commonly called "Lou Gehrig's disease" -- while renewing debate about end-of-life issues.
In the episode entitled "Body and Soul", Golden Globe winning actor James Woods plays what many news sources describe as "brilliant" professor Dr. Nate Lennox, who has been a mentor and teacher to many of the medical staff.
Woods' character is in the advanced stages of ALS and is only able to control his eyelids. Lennox reportedly shows up at the beginning of the show in an electric wheelchair and speaks with a computerized voice box, both of which he operates by blinking his eyes through the use of an Eye-gaze Response Interface Computer Aid (ERICA).
Much of the remaining episode is built with flashbacks showing how ALS progressed from before Lennox was diagnosed in 1999.
Finally, Lennox requests that no actions be taken to treat his recently-acquired pneumonia and to keep him alive.
According to several news sources -- none of which wanted to reveal the controversial ending -- series regular Abby Lockhart apparently seems "obsessed" with keeping Lennox from dying, possibly against his wishes.
In an interview with New York Daily News, Woods explained that he prepared for the role by meeting with a group of members from the ALS Association.
"When I met with the ALS patients in December, we all sat in a circle -- from the early stages to the final stages of the disease. I could see how ALS progressed -- where a person would be six months, two years or five years from now."
"There were just so many aspects of this role I could have never gotten right -- the walking, movements, trouble eating and talking," he explained. "They were so kind to me, and showed such incredible courage and spirit."
"It was one of the most remarkable things in my life," he later told the ALS Association.
"You make the most extraordinarily difficult circumstances viable with the right attitude in life, and I do not mean, oh, let's just have hope and sing 'Kum-Bah-Ya' and hold hands around the campfire," he said.
"We all have to play the hands we're dealt. There's a way to climb bigger mountains than you ever imagined if you put your heart and soul into it. It takes courage and sometimes it takes raw, nasty determination. You have to be as tough as you can possibly be on yourself and on others to get there."
"With that being said, the other message I got was that without somebody to love, you don't stand a chance on earth. It's really important to have a partner."
"Heavy hitter in the 'ER'" (New York Daily News)
"Tuning the nation's TV viewers in to Lou Gehrig's disease" (New York Daily News)
"Actor James Woods Thanks ALSA for its 'Supporting Role' on 'ER'" (ALS Association)