Paula-Loves-Marla's Blog

Observations about Art, Movies, Books, etc.

First Do No Harm – Frailties of the Healthcare System

This 1997 film is an account of common, working class, middle-American people faced with a sick child, insurance problems and a healthcare system that failed its patient. The movie portrayed the financial quagmire that the family found themselves in and how they became trapped by the doctors who were attempting to control their child’s severe epilepsy.

This is the second of Streep’s movies I’ve seen where she has a “regular” accent and which throws me since I’m used to her either being foreign or styled in her speech. It’s also so strange to see her portray a regular person. Even in “The Deer Hunter” she glowed like an Easter lily amongst a field of dandelions. Though it is difficult to reconcile myself with her feed-store clerk role, she is very good in her representation of an anxious mother in financial straits.

Obviously this movie was made with the intent to shake people up about how our medical establishment can do a disservice to its patients by not allowing alternative treatments when traditional methods fail. The fact that a medical institution can hold a child without the parents’ consent was very troubling to me. I had not realized that parents were not the final authority for their children’s welfare (barring abuse, of course) in medical decision-making situations. Scary stuff and in that regard I have to say that the movie has value beyond entertainment.

As I have stated before, I think that movies have the ability to change public opinion for the better and make people rethink the validity and justification about the way things are. Obviously this movie didn’t get the critical acclaim of Kramer vs. Kramer. Too bad because the medical & insurance issues we are facing in our country are problematic and I am not completely confident that the Obama plan will solve all of them.

This is a wonderful movie to rent. I guarantee that you will be wringing your hands as you watch the little boy endure seizures, testing and treatment which would seem to rival any 19th century insane asylum regimen. The little boy steals the show with his realistic performance throughout this movie. Most importantly you will think more critically about standardized medical treatment versus alternative therapy and question whether our system adequately serves its patients by limiting alternative treatment methods.


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