Review: ‘The Widowmaker,’ a Heart Care Documentary By NEIL GENZLINGER
By now the average health care consumer perhaps understands that treatment recommendations from a doctor may be influenced by research grants, financial interests and other personal entanglements. “The Widowmaker<http://www.widowmakerthemovie.com/>,” a documentary by Patrick Forbes, takes a lengthy look at that phenomenon as it relates to heart attacks, promoting the coronary calcium scan, a noninvasive procedure that faced years of resistance because the medical establishment preferred the surgically implanted stent. The film’s only problem is that it may leave you so skeptical that you’re not sure you’re getting the unbiased story on the scan, either.
“The Widowmaker” is commendable in that although it is a work of advocacy, it gives an array of opinions. The medical history is pretty interesting, beginning with the story of the stent, a breakthrough in the treatment of clogged arteries when it was developed in the 1980s. At roughly the same time, strides were being made on a scan that could show calcium, a possible sign of heart trouble. But the scan, the film says, could not gain acceptance because surgeons and hospitals were more interested in the big money<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/business/17device.html?_r=0> they could make from the more expensive stent operation.
The medical debate is intercut with personal stories of heart attacks that seemingly came out of nowhere, which presumably might have been prevented by a scan. Stent versus scan? The debate continues, but whatever your doctor tells you, you’ll at least be more inclined to ask questions after watching the back-and-forth in this film.
Dr. Steven E. Nissen, a leading cardiologist, who is not a scan fan, says, “Having passionate true believers does not make a test worthwhile.”
A scene from “The Widowmaker.”
René O. Oliveira, a Texas legislator, heart patient and scan advocate, says, “He’s an idiot.”