June 18, 2014 Slideshows

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Doc Docs: 8 Powerful Medical Documentaries 

Code Black is the latest in a string of powerful documentaries examining the domestic health care system's flaws and profiling its physicians, caretakers and patients. In this film -- which will be released in select theaters on June 20 -- the cameras are pointed at the nation's busiest emergency room, that of L.A. County Hospital. Here are seven moving medical docs. Click on the film name to read the full review.

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In Code Black, it helps that much of the staff is as photogenic as the cast of a TV medical drama, but what will pull viewers in is the empathy of the healthcare workers who battle to retain their idealism in the face of staggering obstacles.
The American Nurse: With the form so often used to expose horrors, it's nice to see a documentary about genuine human decency without kitsch. Carolyn Jones's portrait of five medical caregivers walks us through day-in, day-out sacrifices without ever coming off as sentimental or aggrandizing.
After Tiller: As a whole, Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's wrenching, humane film is as convincing a brief as I can imagine in favor of that most controversial of all pregnancy-terminating procedures: third-trimester abortions, which today are performed by only four American doctors.
The English Surgeon: The English surgeon is Henry Marsh, a British neuroscientist who has been traveling to Ukraine since 1992 to tutor, diagnose, and perform operations that the post-Soviet medical infrastructure is incapable of handling. Geoffrey Smith's well-meaning documentary takes risks: Contextual setup aside, the film's footage comes from a mere two weeks of shooting Marsh's umpteenth visit to remove an especially risky tumor.
In 2007, Sicko was Michael Moore’s strongest film in years -- if not ever -- and is steadfast in its refusal to turn health care into a polarizing political issue, except to say that pretty much all American politicians, regardless of rank or affiliation, have left us to fend for ourselves.
Not interested in heroicizing the four Western doctors it follows through their missions in the Congo and Liberia, or even in white-washing the ethical challenges of an organization like Medecins Sans Frontieres, Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders takes a rough -- in several senses -- measure of how humanitarian aid works.
With spending on treatment and pharmaceuticals exceeding sustainable levels, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare proposes as an answer preventive measures that, it argues, would radically reduce disease -- and costs.
The Waiting Room: The mandate at Oakland's Highland Hospital, as one doctor says during Pete Nicks's attentive verite portrait of the place, is to admit people "just as much for their social conditions as for their medical ones."
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In Code Black, it helps that much of the staff is as photogenic as the cast of a TV medical drama, but what will pull viewers in is the empathy of the healthcare workers who battle to retain their idealism in the face of staggering obstacles.
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