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The Doctor (1991)

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The Doctor (1991)

aka The Doctor

"He was a doctor who thought he knew it all... until he became a patient."

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 122 mins · English · PG-13 (USA)


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Small Dr. Jack MacKee
Small Anne MacKee
Small Dr. Murray Kaplan
Small Alan
Small Dr. Eli Blumfield
Small Dr. Al Cade
No_movie_poster Ralph
No_movie_poster Roger
No_movie_poster Mr. Maris
Small Dr. Leslie Abbott
No_movie_poster Nicky MacKee
Small June Ellis
Small Michael


No_movie_poster Randa Haines Director
No_movie_poster Laura Ziskin Production
No_movie_poster Robert Caswell Writer
No_movie_poster Lisa Fruchtman Editing
No_movie_poster Bruce Green Editing


"He was a doctor who thought he knew it all... until he became a patient."


Dr Jack MacKee (William Hurt) is a successful surgeon at a leading hospital. He and his wife have all the trappings of success and generally lead a comfortable life, 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, who are in many cases seriously ill, is also quite lacking. The decorum in the operating theater is very casual, loud country and rock music, and the chatter between him and his partner, Dr. Murray Kaplan not particularly professional until a challenge arises. They do get the job done. With another patient with a large, ugly chest crack, who complains her husband is not close anymore and what should she say to him, Jack responds that she should tell him that she is just like a "Playboy center fold, because she has the staple marks to prove it".

One day while on a drive home from a dinner party, Jack has a coughing fit. His wife is shocked when he coughs up particles 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 patient's 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 begins to empathize with patients, which is a new experience for him. He befriends June Ellis, a fellow cancer patient who has an inoperable brain tumor. Her grace 'under fire' and catching Jack in a lie is countered by her getting him to promise to never lie or mislead again. Their friendship leads Jack on some zany adventures, trips to the roof to bare each others souls, and bark at the medical establishment. Jack's room mate who lets Jack take his barium enema as he backs out of the room with a wry smile on his face. Things worsen for Jack and June and they take off to see a native Indian show but the pace is too much for her and they stop in the desert and slow the pace, then return wiser and less impulsive.

Jack's radiation treatment does not stop the cancer on his vocal cords, his despair ends in a confrontation with Dr. Leslie Abbott, whom he provokes into 'air mailing his medical records' on the spot in a heated discussion of her eventually becoming a patient. In one of the best scenes of the film, Jack asks Dr. Eli Bloomfield to perform his needed surgery, which he accepts to perform the next day because it's his day off and he can get him in. Jack apologizes for his and Murray's insulting behavior to which Eli replies, "well, Jack I've always wanted to slit your throat, and now I've got the chance", with a short chuckle they both share. Eli does his best, and his beside manner is a perfect example for Jack and his wife Anne.

Although Jack's cancer is treated and cured, June dies. The experience changes Jack forever. When he returns to work, after several noisy days with his whistle, he begins to teach his new medical interns about the importance of showing compassion and sensitivity towards their patients, which in turn will make them better doctors. Jack puts all 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.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1991-07-24 : United States of America

DVD : 2004-04-06