The documentary “The Human Trial” is a five-year journey exploring the development of stem cell laden implants into human subjects suffering from Type 1 Diabetes in the anticipation they will produce insulin. Five million people a year die from complications attributable to diabetes. If it doesn’t kill you it may very well blind you or cause amputations of limbs, heart attacks or strokes. It will always make everyday life challenging.
As with many diseases in addition to the physiological changes living with diabetes can cause fear, apprehension and depression which the documentary gives the viewer a very good idea of.
Some of the film may lose you with technicalities more germane to those suffering from diabetes. But it is not the technicalities that make the film riveting. It is the human element. What toll is diabetes taking on its victims and how do two humans participating in the initial study in the United States react to this participation. It is a roller coaster of emotions that the viewer can’t escape riding on. Optimism and hope and crushing defeat and everything in between. The documentary may be diabetic centric but living with diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Lyme disease have been on the documentary film circuit of late and share the theme of suffering, despair and lack of hope.
The film does touch upon the economics of disease and the role of biotech companies and there is the smell of big money. Big Pharma makes enormous profits from insulin so it does not have an interest in wiping out those profits with a cure unless the cure is a new pharmaceutical product they can distribute in their network so they take a wait and see attitude investing when a product seems to have more benefits than risks. In the case of this new technology it is San Diego developer Viacyte that must continually search for funds from venture capitalists and pharmaceutical companies to further its research and trials. The documentary skirts substantial criticism of private interests controlling life and death of millions and fails to suggest government funding might be called for but for a healthcare system that is run by private insurance interests and has an abhorrence of socialized medicine governmental intervention seems positively anti-American. Although the documentary captures the emotional trauma of diabetics and of the two participants in the trial it fails to make concrete suggestions how the present American system can be overhauled but give it credit for hinting medical technology follows a money trial.
You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30146N9nY7U
Directed by Lisa Hepner (a sufferer of Type 1 Diabetes) and Guy Mossman.
“The Human Trial” will be available on November 11th on VOD including Apple, Amazon, Google Play.
RKS Film Rating 68/100.