“Escape Fire”! Movie Sparks Hope for Damaged USA Healthcare

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Escape Fire:   The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” is an exciting and timely documentary revealing the brokenness of the healthcare system in the United States and how it is linked to financial incentives.  With a powerful combination of patient stories, objective data, and viewpoints of respected healthcare leaders, such as Drs.  Don Berwick, Andrew Weil, and Dean Ornish, the movie raises critical awareness for creating the tipping point!  This is key for the paradigm shift we need in our complex healthcare systems!


Most of us who have close ties to US healthcare will be more validated than shocked, as  we see poor outcomes every day that can be tied to wasted treatments, unsafe staffing levels, insufficient time, and delayed care that are rooted in financial gain for a few and limited resources for many.  BUT, they are  tough to explain and not necessarily even safe or appropriate to talk about freely.  This film is easy to follow well-researched, and compelling. As such, it provides an effective tool for educating consumers about underlying problems in our system and making it safe to discuss. And, we are all consumers!

The term ‘Escape Fire’ comes from the story of a quick thinking firefighter that did something different in a crisis and lived to tell about it, unlike his colleagues who all died.  (The movie starts out with this story so I won’t spoil it for you with more details.)  But, it is a great analogy for us, because solutions are right in front of us!

Some of the heros in the movie:

  • Steve Burd, CEO of SAFEWAY: Created healthiness incentives for employees.
  • Wendell Potter, Former Head of Communications, CIGNA:  Had an awakening about how he was contributing to suffering.
  • Shannon Brownlee, Medical Journalist (formerly of US News & World Report) through research became aware of harmful aspects aka ‘dark matter’ of our medical system.
  • Sgt. Robert Yates, Infantry, US Army, injured in Afganastan and his courageous recovery both from his injuries and over medication.

I do take issue with two aspects of Escape Fire“. 

First, nurses, as usual,  are under-represented.  With at least ten physicians highlighted and only one nurse leader (briefly at that), it is a little hard to swallow.  Especially since nurses have been championing prevention and healthcare education forever and nurse practitioners as family practice clinicians are examples of the solutions that indeed are right in front of us! In addition, many physical therapists, psychotherapists, chiropractors, and holistic health practitioners have been advocating for cost-effective, helpful solutions for ages.  Diet, exercise, alignment, emotional support are all keys to HEALTHCARE!

Second, there are a couple of places that seemed to me to avoid accountability and blame….like comments about the ‘system being bad, but people being good’,  or  people having ‘good intentions’.  For the most part, I am OK with this and don’t believe that blaming people is an effective strategy, HOWEVER,  it is a fine line between blame and ownership and ownership is extremely important. In fact, Wendell Potter, one of the heros noted above recognized his own contribution to the problem and stopped.  Since this is so integral to the Escape Fire analogy, it is worth mentioning! I would challenge any high paid hospital, pharmacuetical, or medical device, or nurse executive, malpractice attorney, or physician specialist to examine the possibility of personal accountability!

Despite these two criticisms, please see the movie!  Let’s generate some buzz and get this movie in high schools, libraries, theatres, and living rooms across the country.   There are lots of  awesome talking points  that will spark dynamic  discussion and fuel a growing  power of the people.  THAT,  is the fire that will save our system from burning!

Find out where Escape Fire is playing here.

Get it on iTunes.


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