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Brief Reflection on Film " The Doctor(1991)"


The Doctor(1991) is an American film directed by Randa Haines, starring William Hurt as Dr.Jack McKee.

Dr.McKee is a successful cardiothoracic surgeon who loves his profession at hospital. He works for long hours and enjoys power hierarchies that the hospital system created - he was a self-centered attending to his residents and was cold, impersonal and paternalistic to his patients - his focus was only to find the problem(cut the patient) and fix it as quickly as possible. He lacks compassion, sympathy and good bedside manner. His character and lifestyle made even his family feel emotionally distant from him.

In the movie, he encountered a life changing event when he was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, a serious illness which could take his success as surgeon and even his life. Through his personal journey as a patient, he learned about emotional distress such as helplessness, disappointment, frustration, loneliness and fear, which the power hierarchy in healthcare and the lack of empathy from treating providers exacerbated. He found more compassion and support from other cancer patients such as June, who suffered from terminal brain cancer.

He survived cancer and was transformed by his learning. He became a better doctor and better human being.


It is really important that medical providers support the patients and families with empathy and compassion. True partnership between patient-provider and shared decision making is also essential. These efforts will lessen patients’ suffering and stress from their illness as well as from the system.

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