Film Review: The Doctor How to practice bad medicine

By Marisol Merino
May 7, 2010

Robert Caswell's screenplay and the resulting film, The Doctor is a look into the life of a doctor who practices bad medicine. William Hurt plays the role of Jack MacKee, a very successful cardiovascular surgeon.who, as his career kept advancing, learned to care less about the actual patient, but instead care more about his task as getting a job done admirably and with panache. You get to see how his character transforms when the tables turn after he learns of his illness and becomes the patient.

The Doctor is directed by Rainda Haines, produced by Laura Ziskin, and is a film adaptation of the book A Taste of My Own Medicine by Ed Rosenbaum. In the beginning of the movie you are shown Dr.MacKee's self-centered character and basically indifferent and unfeeling attitude toward his work and patients. He makes jokes, he laughs about patients, and is careless, which his colleagues all sense themselves and are taken aback by, if only a bit.

One day he is driving back home with his wife after a party and starts coughing up blood. MacKee is then diagnosed with cancer and goes to see a doctor. The female doctor's manners turn out to be similar to MacKee's but he will not submit to her being in control. This was one of the many obstacles that MacKee had trouble dealing with in his new position as a patient. He was restless in the waiting room, could not take not being controlled by others for their convenience, has many complaints about the hospital, and expects to get first class treatment because he is a doctor. He then meets a young woman named June Ellis (played by Elizabeth Perkins) who has a brain tumor. They keep each other company a few times and he begins to relate to her, to understand and sympathize with her attitudes, feel them himself, and finds her as an inspiration. He admires her courage and strength and begins to reflect on his life, his profession, his marriage, everything.

Not long after June's death, Jack's throat cancer is controlled, then cleared and he implements what he has learned to his new life. Jack's relationship with his wife improved, and he made sure to change his attitude at work with his new attitude by making sure to teach the interns to be. The story is a parable or lesson.

The intended audience of this film was not just professionals such as doctors or psychologists, but everyone. The urging of us to not just show sensitivity but treat patients as people with feelings and rights, with respect, is something everyone should do, because (as the movie shows) whether we like it or not, at one point or another we too will be in a position of having to be a patient. I absolutely loved the movie.

Not only did it put before us all how doctors in the real world can really be, but something I never thought of; they doctors are people too; they can get sick as well. The movie depicted perfectly that doctors are human beings as well and are susceptible to the same diseases, conditions and more important human needs of kindness, concern, attention, real attention as their patients are, which is something that you don't tend to think about very often. June Ellis died because no one paid any attention to her for real. Even though Dr.MacKee was awful in the beginning of the movie, you are led naturally to have sympathy for him and what he is going through. William Hurt played the role effectively this way of cousre. The scene that was really touching to me was when Jack was asked by his colleague to testify in court for him against a patient that was suing him for a procedure that went wrong. Before his change of heart, he wouldn't have hesitated to go to court, but with his new insight and ethical attitude he refused to help with the lies and treat the patients wrong. This showed that he really was a new person, with the "right" thoughts in mind.

This movie has simple message of basically, heart-breakingly so since it is in real life so often ignored, "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you." We are all human beings in need and need be treated that way or we die, shrivel up, and when we don't treat others that way do real harm.

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Page Last Updated: 25 August 2010.