Insight into how critically-acclaimed hospital documentary was made in Southampton
Makers of the documentary 'My Baby’s Life: Who Decides?' have described how they “fell in love” with the staff and families who shared their stories in the most difficult of circumstances in order to make the landmark programme.
Speaking at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust members’ evening, director Kira Phillips said she recognised the bravery of the families, staff and the Trust in allowing a film crew to spend more than a year exploring the work of the clinical ethics committee.
Kira was joined by producer Sue Medhurst and Dr Iain Macintosh, director of the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), on the panel-style event at the latest UHS members’ evening to give a behind the scenes insight into how they produced the two-part documentary that aired on Channel 4 earlier this month. The audience also heard from Mark Hilder, secretary of the Friends of PICU, about how their fundraising supports the Unit.
Documentary makers were given access to PICU where families were having to make the most difficult decisions around the future care of their desperately ill children and whether it would be in their best interests to continue with it.
“We were welcomed into Southampton with open arms,” Kira explained, “We quickly realised what sort of documentary we could make, and what we wanted more than anything else was to get the truth of the situations that we were witnessing.
“We fell in love with the people we were coming to work with and we were certainly on this journey together,” she added.
Dr Macintosh said he believed the programmes accurately represented the complexity of the individual stories. He said: “We were candid, and you treated us with honesty. The tone of the programme felt like the tone of the conversations we were having.”
Kira explained that although the families had allowed the cameras to film during their time on the ward, they were not asked for consent until they had been shown the final edit more than a year later.
She said: “It would have been impossible for them to give consent at the time we were there on the ward in Southampton, as at that point they would have had no idea of where they would be in a year or 18-months’ time when the programme would be ready.
“It did mean that at the start of a week when we were taking our laptop around to all the families to show them what we had filmed, we had no idea whether they would agree to appear in it and even whether we would have any of the programme left.”
Members gathered in the Heartbeat Education Centre at Southampton General Hospital for the second membership evening of the year. They were shown clips of the programme, which followed the very difficult decisions families and the medical teams had to make about whether to continue with further interventions.
When asked about his thoughts on the impact of the programme, Dr Macintosh said: “The angst that parents go through to decide whether to carry on doing things that they know could be terrible or to stop in order to prevent any more of those things happening; neither of those things are easy. I hope this programme gives people a bit more space to think about that and allow everybody to consider other people’s choices with a bit more kindness.”
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