Welcome to your very first lesson in the Faculty of Medicine! Before you start learning anything, please watch the film below by either clicking the “A lesson to be Learnt” link or the poster of the movie.
Try to get the lesson of the movie…before we start anything at all….
A Lesson to be Learnt
Did you check the ENGL131 Course Description? If you already haven’t, do it now…
Dr Jack McKee is a successful surgeon at a leading hospital. He and his wife, Anne, have all the trappings of success, although Jack works such long hours that he rarely has time to see their son and has become somewhat emotionally dead to his wife. His “bedside manner” with his patients, in many cases seriously ill, is also lacking. The decorum in the operating theater is very casual and the chatter between him and his partner, Dr. Murray Kaplan, not particularly professional. (When a patient with a chest scar mentions her husband wants to know if it will go away, Jack responds that she should tell him that she is just like a “Playboy centerfold, because she has the staple marks to prove it.”)
Returning home from a charity event, Jack has a coughing fit. His wife is shocked when he coughs up blood all over her and the car. In an examination, Jack has a sample of a growth removed from his throat. The biopsy comes back positive for cancer. His time spent with another cold, impersonal surgeon in this examination is the beginning of his transformation. Further tests and disappointments are blended with scenes of other patients’ grace and empathy towards each other and a much better view of the delays and missteps of their doctors and medical support personnel.
As Jack experiences life as a patient, there comes a clearer understanding of the emotionally void hospitals, some doctors, and his own colleagues can display. He befriends June Ellis, a fellow cancer patient who has an inoperable brain tumor. She gets him to promise to never lie or mislead a patient again. Jack begins to bark at the medical establishment. Jack and June take off to see a native Indian show but the pace is too much for her. His wife, meanwhile, struggles to understand Jack’s relationship with June.
Jack’s radiation treatment does not stop the cancer on his vocal cords. His despair ends in a confrontation with Dr. Leslie Abbott, the surgeon treating him whom he provokes in a heated discussion. Jack asks a colleague he has previously ridiculed, Dr. Eli Bloomfield, to perform his needed surgery. Jack apologizes for his and Murray’s insulting behavior, to which Eli replies with a smile, “Well, Jack, I’ve always wanted to slit your throat, and now I’ve got the chance.” Eli’s bedside manner is a perfect example for Jack.
Jack’s cancer is treated and cured, but June dies. The experience changes Jack forever. When he returns to work, he begins to teach new medical interns about the importance of showing compassion and sensitivity towards their patients, which in turn will make them better doctors. Jack puts the interns in patient gowns, assigns them various illnesses and orders all the tests for them to “feel” the experience that they will soon put their patients through.