Monday, April 20, 2009


Sicko touts itself as a documentary. Documentaries are one of my less favorite genres for film, but I do enjoy them when they present an interesting topic without preachiness. A documentary is defined as a) relating to or consisting of or derived from documents; b) a film or TV program presenting the facts about a person or event; and, c)emphasizing or expressing things as perceived without distortion of personal feelings, insertion of fictional matter, or interpretation; "objective art"

Sicko won controversial film-maker Michael Moore several Oscars. The film documents the American Health Care industry as compared with Health Care in other countries. The film follows Michael Moore to France, where he discusses French Health Care with Americans living in France, a French "House Call" Doctor and a wealthy French Family. The film also exploits ill workers who responded to the 9/11 attacks and have had health problems allegedly stemming from their response. I say allegedly because I am not certain how one can prove that teeth grinding results from post-traumatic stress disorder related to ground zero. Moore calls the treatment given to Al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay "Universal Health Care" and stages a stunt to try and get treatment there for the 9/11 responders. He then takes them to Cuba where they are given treatment on the cheap.

The film was interesting and addressed some important issues. However, it lost credibility with me because of the non-documentary approach the Michael Moore seems unable to avoid. Moore is controversial. That is who Michael Moore is. But suggesting that Guantanamo Bay prisoners are recieving Universal Health Care is ridiculous. If they were not getting care, the outrage would be deafening. In fact, depending on ones definition regarding the status of the detainees, their care is mandated by the Geneva Convention. There were many other flaws in the approach to this documentary. Statistics are bandied about, health care assessments are cited and interviews seem selective...all to draw a pre-determined (and not necessarily logical) conclusion.

I'm not going to discuss fact-checking per se. Instead, I would like to examine where facts come from...because facts do not always present accurate analysis. For instance, Moore discusses the infant mortality rate in the United States. Infant Mortality Rates are self-reported...with different cirteria from nation to nation.

U.S. News & World Report claims in a 2006 article: "First, it's shaky ground to compare U.S. infant mortality with reports from other countries. The United States counts all births as live if they show any sign of life, regardless of prematurity or size. This includes what many other countries report as stillbirths. In Austria and Germany, fetal weight must be at least 500 grams (1 pound) to count as a live birth; in other parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, the fetus must be at least 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. In Belgium and France, births at less than 26 weeks of pregnancy are registered as lifeless. And some countries don't reliably register babies who die within the first 24 hours of birth. Thus, the United States is sure to report higher infant mortality rates. For this very reason, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which collects the European numbers, warns of head-to-head comparisons by country."

Read More About Sicko

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