Documentary on late Prairie Village surgeon gets showing Thursday; raising money for film on final lecture

Dr. Piehler during one of the interviews at his home.
Dr. Piehler during one of the interviews at his home.

PATIENTThe documentary film about Dr. Jeffrey Piehler, the late Prairie Village thoracic surgeon who built his own coffin will get its first open public screening Thursday evening.

The film, “Patient: – A Surgeon’s Journey” will be shown at the Tivoli at 7:30 p.m. with a portion of the proceeds going to KU Endowment’s Jeffrey Piehler Fund. Executive Producer Tom Rooker of Fairway says funds raised at the premier will go toward editing a new documentary called “The Final Lecture.” Dr, Piehler’s last lecture to a classroom full of KU medical students was shot at the KU Med Center.

Rooker and director Aimee Larrabee, of Prairie Village, hope to make the film from the lecture part of a bigger effort to create more documentaries about compassionate care. The new documentary would be an extension of what is seen in “Patient” and would be directed at students as well as a wider audience. Piehler knew the lecture that was filmed would be his last time to talk with the students.

Piehler died in November 2014. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2002. His essay in the New York Times about building his own coffin was a genesis for end-of-life discussions nationally. Among those he affected were his physicians and other caregivers at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The documentary group, Rooker says, is collaborating with the Kansas City based Center for Practical Bioethics to develop lesson curriculum based on Dr. Piehler’s lectures and interviews. Inland Sea, Larrabee’s company is in touch with national teaching hospitals to develop more documentary works that expand on the topics of compassionate care. Larrabee was able to film 11 interviews with Piehler in 2014 before his death.