Kirby Dick's documentary on the evils of the medical device industry is a shocking call to action, stressing the need for regulation in a field that endangers people's lives.
I finished watching Kirby Dick’s newest documentary The Bleeding Edge about nine hours ago. Following the film I was shaking. Too furious to be able to reasonably sit down and write a review. If anything it would have just been a pseudo-plagiarized version of a Spider Jerusalem editorial, repeating the word fuck in its various forms ad-nauseum. The Bleeding Edge is an important, rage-inducing, masterfully crafted documentary, but clear your schedule before you see it. And you will have to see it.
Dick’s previous work fits well within the themes of The Bleeding Edge. He has made a career of uncovering sickening abuse (The Hunting Ground, The Invisible War), flagrant corruption (This Movie is Not Yet Rated), and the blatantly misogynistic attitudes of those in power. This time around, his lens is focused on the medical device industry. While we often think of pharmaceuticals as the big money sector of medicine, it is shown very early on that the vast amount of cash and sway comes from the world of these devices. This becomes all the more shocking as Dick (with additional writing via his collaborator Amy Ziering) unveils how horribly unregulated this industry really is – the sickening effects of these faulty devices, and the sheer volume of could-give-a-fuck attitude from the likes of Bayer and Johnson & Johnson when their products literally ruin lives.
The documentary places its focus on four different devices, but the primary attention is placed on the Bayer-owned, permanent contraceptive, Essure. As described in marketing promos, Essure is a tiny metal device that is placed in the fallopian tubes, which purposely causes scar tissue to build and permanently close off any ability for sperm to reach the ovaries. What followed in thousands of women was a multitude of debilitating injuries caused by the device not staying in place, doctors inserting the device without proper training, and Essure devices breaking within women during procedures to remove them.
It’s infuriating to see the ways in which these faulty devices harm women on a disproportionate level. From a remote-controlled robot used for hysterectomies or a simple mesh used in vaginal floor procedures, women are constantly within the cross hairs of medical procedures that are wholly dangerous and debilitating 0 but are sold under the guise of quick, painless, and innovative medicine. As the victims of these shady and disgusting practices multiply, it’s the words of the late Representative Louise Slaughter that ring out the truest: “Women just seem to be disposable, don’t they?”
Within all the darkness and horror of The Bleeding Edge, it is the women that shine like a multitude of badass beacons. Whether it’s the tenacious activism of Angie Firmalino, the ferocious, never-ending love of Ana Fuentes, or the dozens of women that tell their stories with a relentless bravery, the film overflows with a feminist power that is completely undeniable.
It is not an easy watch, but like so many of Dick’s previous films, The Bleeding Edge must be seen. It’s a confrontational rejoinder to the medical device industry, and the latest in a body of work that solidifies Dick’s status as one of documentary filmmaking’s preeminent journalists.