Medicine and the Golden Rule come together in THE DOCTOR, a film about a 40-year-old heart surgeon who rethinks his policy about emotional detachment when plagued with cancer of the larynx, forcing him to live the doctor/patient relationship from the other side of the hospital bed.
The story begins in the operation room as Jack and his colleague, Murray, rescue a man who attempted suicide. Raucous music blares in the operating room as the doctors joke to relieve some of the tension. With only seconds left to save the man’s life, Jack successfully completes the operation. To celebrate, the practitioners sing “Why don’t we get drunk and f—!” as they dance about the room.
During his rounds, Jack counsels the medical interns not to become emotionally involved with their patients. His medical philosophy allows him to treat any condition with stoic detachment.
Suffering from a sore throat and nagging cough, Jack visits an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. Leslie Abbott. Clinically cold in her approach to Jack, Dr. Abbott enables Jack to realize how a patient must feel when treated with indifference.
When Dr. Abbott finds a tumor on Jack’s vocal chords, she schedules him for a biopsy. Now forced to rely on another’s expertise, Jack experiences all the horrors of dealing with doctors and large medical institutions. Ultimately, Jack’s tumor is malignant, and he and his wife deal with the ordeal of cancer.
In chemotherapy, Jack meets June, another patient with an inoperable brain tumor. By sharing her struggle, Jack learns to love life and treat others with sensitivity and respect. At first, he is not receptive to June’s story that her condition was worsened by misdiagnosis, albeit true. Professionally, Jack is more concerned with protecting the brotherhood of doctors.
Gradually, Jack becomes deeply affected by June’s ability to endure her fatal condition. Jack asks her if she prays. She does pray, meditate, dance, and eat chocolate. Through his involvement with June, Jack sorrowfully realizes that his medical practice was built upon a wrong premise.
Biblically, THE DOCTOR resounds with the truth of Luke 6:31: “Just as you want men to do to you, you also must do to them likewise.” The film also depicts tenderness, especially with Jack’s inner struggle and the ordeal of tumor surgery.
Some elements of THE DOCTOR aren’t totally believable, however, such as Jack’s complete transformation from indifference to sensitivity. Also, the emotional basis for Jack’s relationship with June is not clearly defined, nor is his commitment to his wife. In addition, a subplot about a malpractice case against Murray unnecessarily complicates the film. Furthermore, the few profanities and obscenities soil the positive moral messages.
THE DOCTOR could have been a great movie with an exemplary message. Regrettably, the script doesn’t do the story justice, but it still has much to offer an audience.
(LL) 25 obscenities & a few profanities