Medical devices. We can’t help but be grateful for them. You may have a grandparent kept alive by a pacemaker or a friend kept mobile with a metal plate holding pieces of bone together. I’ve been bodily attached for months to a device that kept my wound from going septic and though it was a pain in the ass, it’s sort of a miracle to even have access to it – a piece of motorized equipment that hadn’t even been around during a similar surgery 5 years prior and sped my healing by quite a wide margin. The reason my mother walks around at all today is that both her knees have been replaced by metal ones. They make a ruckus at the airport but I know she’s happy to have them. Think about how many people you know who would be dead today if they’d been born just a few decades earlier. Science advances, technology advances, and the medical field innovates to keep our bodies running more smoothly.
But The Bleeding Edge is here to warn us that the for-profit world of medical devices isn’t just here to do good. In fact, it often feels that any good they do is secondary, an afterthought to simply churning out products that make money. You’re probably used to thinking about big pharma in this way, but medical devices may be even more guilty, especially because they’re less regulated. You wouldn’t be crazy for assuming that the FDA regulates them the same way they do drugs and vitamins, but this is not the case. These things may be made to go inside your body, but few tests are done to see how they actually fare inside there. And this documentary unfortunately finds a lot of people who’ve had their lives ruined by untested devices – things as simple as contraceptive devices. But in a rush to sell as many of these devices as possible to doctors, sales reps don’t actually care whether or not a doctor can safely use this new device. And the scarier thing is, when something goes wrong, there’s not a single doctor who knows how to take them out.
This is one of those documentaries that makes us all uncomfortable because we’ve likely all be complacent about asking the right questions before we consent to medical intervention. We do assume that someone has done their due diligence, and I think that should be a fair assumption, but it isn’t. So what a film like this is an important reminder that we are all our own best advocates. We have the right to be concerned about what goes on in our bodies, and perhaps we should slow down a bit when making these life-altering decisions. We can do our own research. We can ask the right questions. And we can demand stricter guidelines and regulatory bodies. Because medical ‘innovation’ isn’t good to any of us if it’s making things worse.