Extraordinary story of Halifax’s Dr. Shelly Sarwal set to premiere at 2019 FIN Atlantic International Film Festival

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Halifax, NS Her Last Project, a film that chronicles a remarkable woman’s end-of-life journey, premieres on Sept. 13 as part of the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival’s documentary program. This extraordinary documentary follows Dr. Shelly Sarwal’s story of taking control of her destiny and leaving a lasting legacy.

Diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy, an incurable disease, Dr. Shelly Sarwal chose to end her life through medical assistance in dying (MAID) and to become an organ and tissue donor. As the first person in Nova Scotia to undergo the complicated medical journey of donation after MAID, it was Shelly’s wish to share her experience as a way to educate the public and the medical community.

After saying goodbye to her closest friends over toast and tea, Shelly died peacefully, with her husband at her side. Shelly’s organ donation was a gift that impacted many lives.

Her Last Project is directed by Emmy-nominated Rosvita Dransfeld and produced by Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with Legacy of Life at the Nova Scotia Health. 

This powerful film debuts in Shelly’s hometown of Halifax. This is where Shelly worked and taught, where she lived her life among friends and family. And where she documented her final days for the benefit of others.

The premiere screening of Her Last Project takes place at 6:20 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13 in Theatre 3 of the Cineplex Cinemas Park Lane in Halifax.


“Our team first met and worked with Shelly as a patient partner. She helped us to develop national guidelines for health professionals involved in organ donation who, due to the passing of MAID legislation, were faced with the reality of having to care for and engage a new group of potential donors. This was unfamiliar territory for organ donation specialists and the public. Shelly and her family bravely and selflessly invited us to chronicle her journey over many months through the MAID process and subsequent organ and tissue donation. Her gift saved lives and serves to educate the broader health system on this important issue. We are honored to have had this opportunity to tell her story.”   

Amber Appleby, Executive Producer. Appleby is also the director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at Canadian Blood Services.  

“It was the first time in my career that I’d collaborated with health agencies in this way. The team at Canadian Blood Services and NSHA remained highly respectful of Shelly’s and my vision for the film. Although already weakened and frail, Shelly remained committed to educate the public about MAID and organ donation. I am honoured to have worked on this project and to have met this woman extraordinaire.”   

Rosvita Dransfeld, Director. Dransfeld is an internationally renowned documentary filmmaker who crafts powerful explorations of the human condition connecting the audience to the subjects on screen in a way that is both moving and respectful. Dransfeld has produced two other high-profile documentaries related to organ donation and transplant, Memento Mori and Vital Bonds. Transplanting Hope, an adaptation of Vital Bonds, has just been nominated for an Emmy.  

“Dr. Shelly Sarwal was an extraordinary woman who I had the privilege to know first as a patient and then as a colleague and friend. At a time when many of us would look for privacy, Shelly opened up her life to strangers so that they might learn more about end of life compassion, medical assistance in dying and the gift of organ donation. She was passionate about educating health professionals and the public on all of these issues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her and learned so much from her during this project.”

Dr. Jennifer Hancock, Intensivist, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Halifax, N.S.


Learn more 2019 FIN Atlantic International Film Festival Program

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