Thursday, July 12, 2007


Money is the root of all medicine

By Edward Copeland
When I watched King Vidor's 1938 film The Citadel in my neverending quest to see as many major Oscar nominees as possible (it earned nominations for picture, director, writing and lead actor Robert Donat), I originally didn't plan to write about it, since the first half of the film bored me so much. Then some plot developments occurred that made this flawed film relevant to the world we live in today, so I figured a few words were in order.

Since I also reviewed Sicko this week, I found it interesting that this nearly 70-year-old film addressed a problem with health care that Michael Moore's documentary didn't address: The inherent greed that can also afflict medical practitioners. Who hasn't experienced doctors who order expensive tests that seem to be urgent, but then you never hear about results reasonably soon (and sometimes doctors' vacations come up, delaying any news, good or bad, even longer)?

Worse yet, who hasn't had an appointment with a doctor only to be handed off to a P.A. because the real doctor is "too busy" to see patients.

Donat stars as a newly minted Scottish doctor with an unending devotion to his patients, led especially by his best friend and fellow doctor (a great turn by Ralph Richardson). Things are going along well as a small town doctor until one day a man grateful for Donat saving the life of his wife and child slips him some cash as a reward, outraging the town harridan who hired him.

Later, when Donat comes into contact with more well-heeled citizens in London and realizes that he doesn't have to be a doctor for charity, he can make a great living at it as well, the tide turns. His bedside manner goes to hell and he rejects possible breakthroughs that wouldn't help him improve his lifestyle. (It's worth noting that the film was made prior to the creation of Britain's National Health Service.)

The change affects his relationship with Richardson and his wife (Rosalind Russell in one of her earliest roles). Of course, he eventually sees the error of his ways, but it is intriguing to see this old a film posit that not all doctors are in it for the higher good. (They even show him taking an interest in golf.)

While many and most doctors probably do have their patients' best interests at heart, it's easy to see how this happens in such a profit-driven system and it's something Moore's film didn't really touch on. Maybe a subject for Moore's next movie. If he tackles the pharmaceutical companies as well, perhaps he can produce a trilogy about the Axis of Medical Evil. Remember: Doctors have no financial incentive for making people well — there's no percentage in that.

The Citadel isn't a good film by any means, but it is quite an interesting artifact.

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Yikes...medicine? How do you liquidate it and pour it into a teaspoon?
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