Web exclusive: On call for Michael Moore



Dr. Jack Stanzler is a retired doctor of internal medicine living in Ann Arbor, Mich. He also spent 10 years working as a consultant for Medicaid. Stanzler was the medical consultant on the new Michael Moore film “Sicko.”

NUVO: How did you get involved with “Sicko?”

STANZLER: Michael, Laurie [White, filmmaker] and I were friends back when he was a teenager. Laurie and he were both into debating. Michael was involved in community programs and so was Laurie. He started a newspaper, “The Flint Voice” [later “The Michigan Voice”] and then went to San Francisco to run “Mother Jones.” When he came back, that’s where “Roger & Me” [Moore’s debut film] got started. First he wanted to write a book about it. Instead, he made a film.

A year ago, he called me to help him on “Sicko.” Michael asked people to post on his Web site their health care horror stories and thousands and thousands of them came in. Either he or one of his producers would call me about a particular case. I would help them on it if it was worth pursuing. We would talk about certain cases or I would tell him how to demonstrate a certain procedure.

NUVO: Did any of the cases you studied make the film?

STANZLER: No. As the project moved on, Michael wanted to show the universal problem with health care in this country. He also wanted to show how the other countries treated their patients. I worked on plenty of cases, but the cases I worked on were not general enough. His overview of the system was much more critical.

NUVO: You still got the credit.

STANZLER: You’re damn right (laughs). When you’re at Michael’s beck and call for a year. (laughs) What matters most is seeing somebody finally bringing it out in the open. To see how such profits are going to HMOs and to attorneys and various organizations. It’s very disturbing. There are 100,000 deaths each year due to screw-ups while there are trillions of dollars being spent for medicine in this country.

NUVO: What did you think of the film?

STANZLER: Michael had a showing of the film in Ann Arbor and I thought it was astounding. He was smart not to center it around himself or what he did or said. He let the film speak for itself. It’s a sign of maturity as a filmmaker. It was amazing to remember seeing the number of inaccuracies that have happened inside a hospital throughout my career and to see how other countries are doing so much better than this.

NUVO: What inaccuracies have you witnessed?

STANZLER: My sister had a heart valve inserted. She was in her early 80s at the time. She did great the first day after surgery. The next day I went out, came back, and they were going to put her back into surgery. They were going to put another valve in. They said her cardiogram changed. This was said by another doctor, one who didn’t operate on her. It was that doctor’s day off. I said, “She’s not going anywhere and neither am I until we hear from her doctor.” It’s really a thrill to save your sister’s life. Say what you will about Michael or “Sicko,” but the lesson learned is never go to the hospital by yourself.

NUVO: You were living in Flint, Mich., during “Roger & Me.” What was the city like?

STANZLER: I moved there in 1955 and it was glorious. It was so sad to see the whole city go down the tubes. The downtown still looks like hell and they’re not making any progress.