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Whether you’re a medical professional or student, a science teacher, or you simply want to expand your medical knowledge, watching a medical documentary is a refreshing way to stay up to date and informed about the latest technology and procedures. While you can certainly get all that information from books, a documentary gives you the chance to see the world of medicine in action. From surgeries and autopsies to emergencies, diseases and childbirth, there’s something for everyone.
Read on to find out the most influential medical documentaries out there, and learn how to find more yourself.
There are so many medical documentaries to watch, it can be hard to know where to start or which ones are worth viewing. But don’t worry, we’ve done all the hard work for you. If you haven’t watched them already, here’s our selection of must-see medical documentaries that could teach you a lot.
Code Black is an American documentary that follows the physicians working at Los Angeles County Hospital (USA’s busiest emergency room), and how they deal and face with healthcare treatment in the modern world. The documentary centres heavily both in doctors and the patients.
This documentary follows a trauma response team in a central London hospital, showcasing emergencies ranging from traffic accidents to heart attacks. Each story is extensively told — even featuring interviews with family members and loved ones of the patients. The main focus of 24 Hours in A&E is to show how people react in those critical and stressful first response moments.
Set in a Ukrainian hospital, The English Surgeon follows British neuroscientist Henry Marsh and Ukrainian physician Igor Kurilets — and how they manage to do their job in rural Ukraine, lacking the necessary and cutting-edge equipment, and facing the intense ethical issues that come with working in those particular circumstances. The film especially centres around Marsh removing a risky brain tumour.
This documentary follows American singer performer Sharon Jones’ pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2013 — and allows an up-close look into dealing with cancer, and how the disease affects so many people, well beyond the sufferer. Warm the popcorn and get comfortable on the couch for this fascinating film.
This 3-season BBC documentary follows the cases of Britain’s emergency field services. It shows the importance of receiving medical treatment within an hour after being hurt in order to recover. Like one boy who fell off his bike and onto a cattle grid, tearing an artery, he survived thanks to immediate treatment. The documentary also looks at the patient’s recovery process and life after treatment.
This 2012 documentary film by Peter Nick was shot in 2010 over five months and it follows the staff and patients at Highland Hospital in California that serves low-income, uninsured patients. The documentary focuses on around 10 patients who talk about their financial and health problems and a bureaucratic healthcare system. Ultimately, it shows the reality of helping these patients who have cancer, bone spurs, or serious wounds.
10-year-old Sicko shows the reality of the American healthcare system, reflecting on the haves and have-nots — and how those truths shape a person’s access to treatment. The documentary also compares the American healthcare system to other countries — a great film if you wish to learn the differences between the Australian and the American healthcare system.
This British documentary series follows the staff and patients in the labour ward of a hospital using fixed-rig cameras to record multiple viewpoints simultaneously. It shows the reality and risks of being pregnant and giving birth, and you’ll also learn which pregnancy and childbirth myths are false. An Australian version of the show premiered in October 2019 on Network 10 and was filmed inside Sydney’s Westmead Hospital.
Forgotten Plague was made by Ryan Prior, a journalist afflicted with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), in order to find out why the healthcare system has neglected the disease and left millions of people sidelined from life. Moreover, it tells the stories of individuals diagnosed with CFS and their fight for more research on the disease, and provides education on the nature and impact of the disease.
An oldie but a goodie, and probably remembered as the first documentary that ever filmed a live autopsy, The Body in Question was produced in the 70’s and deals with the idea of health, life, sickness and what it means to live in our own bodies.
Miracle Hospital has two seasons and it showcases the Australian healthcare industry. It shows medical teams at St Vincent’s Hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne using the latest science and technology to perform ground-breaking and life-saving procedures. From 3D printed or donated body parts for heart and lung transplants, to advanced robotic surgical systems for vascular and spinal surgeries, the stakes are high but it could save the lives of Australians living with cancer or life-threatening diseases.
While not a documentary, Medicine and What Matters in the End is a 2014 book written by Atul Gawande (a Harvard University professor of surgery and public health in the United States) that’s definitely worth reading. It’s mainly an honest take on the hardest side of medicine — death; and how medical professionals are affected when facing it daily.
Feeling inspired and want to watch more medical documentaries but don’t know where to find them? We’ve got you covered! There are plenty of resources online that allow you to view instructional videos and documentaries on medicine, but to save you the headache of searching so you can start watching right away, here’s our top three choices.
You can also find additional resources and more updated documentaries through the digital library of the University of Queensland. You can search by entering the documentary’s title, director, producer, writer, or cast. Alternatively, if you aren’t looking for any film in particular and just want to browse all the medical documentaries they have on offer, click here.
Informit EduTV provides comprehensive content across a wide array of learning areas, including the medical field. It is an essential resource for teaching and learning, and its regularly-updated content features documentaries, dramas, series, and more — including archives of programs dating back to 2006.
Anatomy.tv is a top-notch medical software, that features the most exact and detailed 3D models of the human body online — covering the anatomy of every region of the body, including muscle function, injuries, structure, dissections, and more. You’ll need to purchase a subscription package in order to access the software though.
The healthcare industry is constantly changing and reinventing itself. That’s why physicians never stop studying or learning — being on top of the changes is a must. Whether you like to learn more about medical innovation and breakthroughs, or the financial issues that affect the industry, we hope you watch these documentaries to increase your knowledge on the matter.
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