Great Ormond Street Review: Heart-Wrenching Heroics

April 6, 2010 by  
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Great Ormond Street – Pushing The Boundaries: Tuesday 6th April, BBC 2, 9pm ALERT ME

TV loves hospitals. What better place to base a drama then in an epicentre of new life, death, hope and horror. It’s all going on down those lino-lined corridors.

Despite the setting, the doctors of Holby City, ER and Doctors are usually more concerned with ward rivalries and bonking the junior nurse then the fictional fates they hold in their hands.

In reality these dedicated professionals face literally life-changing decisions on a daily basis. It is their skill that means children with months left to live confound medical science. It is also their job to explain to a loving family that nothing can be done to help their dying baby.

Filmed over the course of a year, Great Ormond Street focuses on the cardiac unit at the world’s top children’s hospital. The film follows four children as decisions are made about their futures. Eight-month-old Aicha is not expected to survive the winter and her family refuse to accept that nothing can be done. Baby Natalie and her parents have travelled from Denmark for high-risk surgery that has never been tried before. Bryan, nine, needs a potentially fatal heart transplant and Blessing faces a perilous operation that her parents must consent to.

With each case the doctors must decide whether treatment is possible and worthwhile. Although technology might be there to do something, it might not always be the best course of action. As heart surgeon Professor Martin Elliott puts it: “Yes we can is not the same as yes we should or yes we ought. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.?

The results are heart-wrenching and the film features a never-before-seen footage of the meetings where doctors discuss each case. Here they debate the difference between high-risk and too high-risk as cold heartedly as they can, but it’s not always possible not to get emotionally involved.

But all agree – “All in all, alive is a gift.? Facing impossible decisions and saving lives, these real-life doctors are truly heroic. Have a hanky to hand; Pushing The Boundaries is an hour of extreme joy and sadness.