“With Every Breath,” a new documentary from ProPublica and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is an intimate glimpse into what happens when patients and a doctor learn that a lifesaving device may be causing harm.
In 2021, Philips Respironics issued a massive recall of as many as 15 million sleep apnea devices and ventilators. This film follows people who use and prescribe the DreamStation, a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine that has a serious defect. The foam the company had chosen for it could crumble in heat and humidity and send potentially carcinogenic material into the noses, mouths, throats and lungs of users.
In statements, the industry giant said it acted as soon as it learned of the “potential significance” of the problem and that the machines are unlikely to cause harm. But an investigation by ProPublica and the Post-Gazette revealed a different story. Over the course of more than a decade, Philips held back from the government thousands of complaints about the machines as stock prices soared. Again and again, previously undisclosed records and interviews with company insiders show Philips suppressed mounting evidence that its profitable breathing machines threatened the health of the people relying on them, in some cases to stay alive.
Weaving personal stories with lush cinematography, “With Every Breath” visualizes the stories of three people, who face the unanswerable question of how their health has been impacted, and a sleep medicine doctor who leads her patients through the chaotic recall. The film humanizes a public health crisis that has affected millions.
Directed by Liz Moughon and produced by Almudena Toral, this 20-minute film accompanies the investigative series about the Philips CPAP recall also called “With Every Breath,” published in partnership with the Post-Gazette.