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Film Review: The God Committee
by Karen Pecota

In real life, the term "god committee" was used prior to the 1960s for a committee (The Admissions and Policy Committee) formed to choose which patients would receive dialysis treatments at the institution of the Seattle Artificial Kidney Center at Swedish Hospital. The selection methods were highly criticized. Between the 1960s-1970s, due to the outrage of unfair practices, there was a shift away from select individuals or panels deciding who shall live based on physical, financial, and other personal advantages toward a federal subsidy program to make life-saving technologies available to anyone who needed them.

Filmmaker Austin Stark writes and directs his latest feature narrative THE GOD COMMITTEE drawing from the ethical and moral debate of choosing which patients should live or die when in need of a transplant. It's God's work in the hands of human beings. His all-star cast (Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Janeane Garofalo with Dan Hedaya and Colman Domingo) allows the film to be a love letter to doctors "who toil away in a well-intentioned but imperfect system," says Stark. Continuing, "The worldwide organ shortage continues to devastate families from all walks of life." Adding, "One of the main reasons I chose to make THE GOD COMMITTEE was to shed light on how serious this issue is. More than anything else, I am hoping that my film will motivate more people to donate organs and save lives." Stark notes, "I tried to be as authentic as possible, especially regarding the transplant process and the struggles doctors face every day. I owe much of this to the medical consultants I worked with, including Dr. Joseph Costa, Dr. Marc Gurny, and Dr. David Hiltzik."

Stark's film is inspired by a powerful play from Mark St. Germain after hearing about a true-to-life story of a wealthy man, in desperate need of a liver transplant, who bribed a hospital in the northeast for an organ. The themes in the play and real life were the same. Stark takes this opportunity to open the door to explore the organ transplant system.


A New York hospital is presented with an unexpected donor heart which needs to be transplanted in a recipient within one hour. The hospitals organ committee quickly convenes to decide which patient, one of three they have in waiting, deserves the life-saving heart. The decision is now in the hands of a small number of doctors and insurance agents, including a cynical but brilliant heart surgeon, Boxer (Kelsey Grammer); a young up-and-coming idealist, Jordan (Julia Stiles); a skeptical bureaucrat, Gilroy (Janeane Garofalo).

Quickly evaluating each candidate, an intense debate flares up between the committee members on the cost of life and death. The committee must decide what is more important; ethics over bribes, morals over money, or vice versa.