Award-Winning Documentary Takes on American Health Care System

It’s not often that we discuss a movie in HCAFeNews. Today is an exception. Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare opened October 5. The documentary has already won awards at film festivals and a Best Picture nomination at the Sundance Film Festival for Directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke.

In the documentary, Steve Nissen, head of cardiology at Cleveland Clinic says, “When medicine became a business, we lost our moral compass…What I’m arguing for is not to make things tough on industry, it’s to make things safe for patients, putting patients first. We have a motto in medicine, Primum Non Nocere. In Latin it means above all do no harm.”

The film was funded, in part, by Clayton McWhorter, a former executive with Hospital Corporation of America who said, “I’m pointing fingers at myself almost… Let me say, good people have made a lot of money off of a flawed health care system… It’s fee for service. If you’re selling trinkets, you’ve got to sell a lot of them. I hate to say this, but we’re selling medicine.”

The title of the film comes from a speech by Donald Berwick, MD, former CMS Administrator, who relayed the story of a firefighter whose life was saved because he started an secondary fire to escape from a blaze that would have taken his life. A central theme of the movie is that healthcare institutions have not been focused on outcomes, that the U.S. doesn’t really have a healthcare system, but rather a pain management or disease management system.

In addition to Steve Nissen and Donald Berwick, the movie features F. Robert Yates Jr., MBA, FACHE, FACMPE, CEO of AmPract, Shannon Brownlee, MS, author of Overtreated and acting director of the New America Health Policy Program, Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Steve Burd, CEO of Safeway, Wendell Potter, former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA, David Fridovich, Deputy Commander of the US Special Forces, Wayne Jonas, Samueli Institute President and CEO, Yvonne Osborn, patient of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center, Roy Litton, a short order cook with heart disease who makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance, and Dr. Erin Martin, a primary care physician.

You may have to search for a theater showing the movie, download it, or order a video on demand. But, today, you can watch the trailer and read more information at

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