November 17, 2007 § 2 Comments
In my current job almost all the videos we make are of actual patients undergoing cancer surgery and procedures used in diagnosing cancer . Before we can go ahead with a recording, the patient has to sign a paper stating her consent.
When I was initially briefed about the job, I thought this would be the project’s Achilles’ heel. Why would someone who’s about to get a cancerous tumor removed from their body agree to having a camera team present? Would any woman who’s getting her breasts scanned want the extra stress of being filmed? I imagined a lot of time would be spent searching for a patient who would say “yes”.
Fortunately I was proven wrong. Almost everyone we ask agree to our presence. Even the parents of small children with cancer give their consent.
It seems to me that the reason can be found in the gravity of their situation. They’re in a place where no one wants to be. They want to be cured and they want to do whatever they can to help other people get cured. If that means letting a videographer document their biopsy so other doctors can learn the procedure better – so be it. I deeply respect this unselfish generosity in the midst of serious illness.
It’s easy to forget the situation these people are in when you’re filming surgery several times a week. But I often catch myself, in between focal lengths and f-stops, thinking this could be the operation that saves this man’s life. This could be the biopsy that proves this woman has cancer. This could be the most dramatic event in this person’s life. And she allowed me to be present.