Sunday, October 30, 2005

At the movies: Little Man

Little Man is an incredible documentary. An intensely personal tale of life, a mother's devotion, medical technology and the complexity of some of the hottest hot button social issues of the day.

At the showing that I saw, the LA premier of the film, was the writer-director Nicole Conn and many of the people involved in the production of the film. Also in attendance were some of the medical personnel shown in the film.

Ms. Conn had originally set out to do a documentary on surrogate mothers. She and her partner enlisted a surrogate mother to carry to term their son the result of using their eggs and donor sperm. Conn was intrigued by the kind of individuals who would participate in such a process.

The story took an unexpected turn when they discovered the surrogate had misrepresented her health status. Compounding the problems was the poor health of the baby growing inside the womb of the surrogate.

Baby Nicholas was born via emergency cesarian section 100 days premature. The chances of survival of a baby that early at 1 pounds 1 ounces was extremely low.

The film followed the turbulent days and weeks that followed in the NICU = neonatal intensive care unit.

I'm not ready to post an extensive debate on the issues raised by the film. Don't know if I ever will be.

But this is one situation where my "micro" reactions and "macro" reactions are completely the opposite.

On a "micro" level, you see this tiny baby fighting for life and all you can do in your heart of hearts is root for him to survive and you can understand employing every tool of medical technology to make it so.

But the hard reality is that medical technology as advanced as it is, can't do everything. In this case, it was able just barely to save Nicholas and can't make Nicholas completely healthy. He will always require various amounts of medical care the rest of his life. And that is the "macro" question: as a matter of public policy, should we spend millions of dollars to save extremely premature babies many of whom die in the attempt and of those who make it out of the NICU require life long medical care to varying degrees the rest of their lives?

When you see him, you say, we have to.

When you cover up the picture and look at the cold hard numbers ...

Amidst the cognitive dissonance, the crystal clear things that brought tears to my eyes and to many in the audience was the incredible devotion of all who care for Nicholas, the blend of competence and compassion of the medical personnel and the fighting spirit of the little man.

To see the film in Southern California, go to the Laemmle Music Hall on Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 274-6869

To understand more about the issues relating to premature births, see the Good Beginnings web page. Good Beginnings is the support group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for premature babies, their parents and for the NICU staff who care for them.


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