Documentary takes you inside the ED
Life and death struggles aren’t the only battles raging in emergency departments. There’s also the less visible war between doctors’ ideals and the challenges of practicing medicine in today’s political and economic healthcare environment.
Dr. Ryan McGarry set out to show that tension in “Code Black,” a documentary in which he follows patients and fellow physicians at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center’s emergency department.
He shows doctors and nurses swarming around patients in seeming chaos but explains the order in it all. McGarry also delves into the personal lives and motivations of other young doctors aiming to find their place while struggling to cut through bureaucratic hassles and help often desperate patients.
McGarry, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, did his residency at LA County, and made the documentary from 2008 to 2012 while in training there. “I didn’t sleep,” he said. He was motivated to become a doctor by his personal experience fighting cancer.
Much of the film’s action takes place in “C-Booth,” L.A. County’s trauma bay, where the movie’s website says “more people have died and more people have been saved than in any other square footage in the United States.”
McGarry said he hopes the film helps to “disarm” the debate over healthcare. “So often in American politics … it’s often the rhetoric that takes over the discussion and not the actual issues that matter,” he said. “You can certainly have your opinion on healthcare, but debate it in our waiting room and it would certainly sound different.”
The film already has garnered a number of accolades, winning Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival.
The film is scheduled to be screened at medical schools, hospitals and a few traditional movie venues through early December. Anyone wishing to schedule a screening for their organization or company can fill out the form at codeblackmovie.com/screenings.
Director Dr. Ryan McGarry, bottom right, made the documentary during his training at
L.A. County-USC Medical Center. One of the fellow physicians featured is Dr. Jamie
Eng, at right.