Humans communicate with each other across different communication contexts. Communication contexts refer to the settings among people or within a person in which communication occurs; these communication contexts act as the best way of focusing on some aspects of communication. Examples of these communication aspects are communication processes and effects of communication (Nada & Alexander, 1994). This paper investigates the communication aspects and processes in the movie produced by Randa Haines in 1991 called The Doctor. The aspects of communication contexts of the film that this paper discusses are ethnocentricism, deception, physician and patient communication.
The Doctor is a movie about a doctor who finds out in a hard way that there is more to medicine than the skill of performing medical procedures. Jack McKee is a very gifted, yet arrogant, heart surgeon who has very little regard for the emotional welfare of his patients. Jack McKee does not care about his wife Ann and son Nicky. Jack also suffers from a consistent nagging cough (Randa, 1991).
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One morning, Jack McKee is diagnosed with a fatal form of throat cancer after his wife has discovered that he is coughing up blood. Suddenly, Jack realizes the experiences patients undergo while waiting too long for doctors in the hospital, the bureaucracy of the treatment procedure, and the bad attitude of the medical community to patients (Randa, 1991).
Although Jack’s cancer is cured, this experience changes him forever. After getting back to his career as a surgeon, Jack McKee appreciates the need for compassion for patients and begins to teach his staff the importance of compassion and sensitivity. He also makes the doctors working with him consider the pain patients undergo. He also strives to become a better father and husband (Randa, 1991).
In the movie, The Doctor, the protagonist Jack McKee displays much ethnocentrism in his character. Ethnocentrism refers to the act of judging other people through the values and the standards of the person's culture. Ethnocentrism entails making some false assumptions about other people based on the person’s limited experience (William & Todorov, 2000).
Jack displays ethnocentrism in a casual attitude towards the pain his patients are undergoing. Jack is a great doctor, but after having practiced for many years, he develops a clinical distance to human beings to the point that he no longer values human beings. He also does not value his wife and children. He sees his patients as inferior beings that did not need to be treated with sympathy and compassion (Randa, 1991).
Jack McKee is not mindful of the welfare of his patients. Mindfulness in communication contexts refers to the consideration of the opinion of another person (William & Todorov, 2000). Jack only cares about performing procedures on his patients; he has no time of listening to their opinion because he has the belief that they are inferior beings. Jack McKee monopolizes the treatment process and does not involve the views of the patient in his treatment procedures. He tells them that he is the doctor and they are just patients, and therefore they should not question him (Randa, 1991).
Jack McKee reveals how ego can shortchange doctors, voiding them of humane feelings for their patients. Jack McKee exhibits bad attitudes towards his patients; for example, he tells June that his inoperable brain tumor had given her some freedom like being incredibly hostile. He also tells Dr. Blumfiled that ENT sometimes meets ESP, implying that unconscious patients could still hear (Randa, 1991).
Jack undergoes a transformation of his ethnocentric attitude after becoming a patient. He realizes that hospitalization exposes a person to bureaucratic inefficiency, the impersonality of doctors, and bad treatment. Jack McKee’s ethnocentric attitude towards patients changes and he becomes a compassionate and caring doctor. Jack McKee also develops the courage to challenge the ethnocentric attitude of his doctor colleagues towards patients. He tells them that if he hears them describe the patient’s illness as terminal, the doctors should also describe their medical career as terminal (Randa, 1991).
Totalizing is another aspect of the ethnocentric character that Jack McKee exemplifies in his character. Totalizing in communication means responding to another person, while holding some preconceived notions about her. By totalizing some people, the doctor fails to recognize some other aspects of his patient (Shah & McLeod, 2001).
In his communications, Jack McKee responds to his patients as if they were helpless and inferior people. He tells them that he is the doctor and that he will let them know when he will be available to attend to them. He also has a preconceived notion that patients are irritating and hostile to doctors. For example, he responds to June by telling her brain tumor has made her hostile (Randa, 1991).
Jack McKee also displays monopolization of language in his communication with patients. The monopolizing of communication is a selfish act of continually focusing communication on one’s side, instead of giving another person a chance to speak out. Monopolizing entails either diversionary interruption or termination of a conversation, or flipping it to oneself.
The protagonist in the movie The Doctor, Jack McKee, also exemplifies monopoly in his communication through the way he cuts short his patients. He has a very negative view of his patients and does not listen to their concerns. Jack McKee only values the instructions he is giving to them and does not like to be questioned.
After the transformation of Jack McKee’s attitude, he refuses to be engaged in deception in his practice. Deceptive communication means the sender of information tries to manipulate untruthful messages, which allows false communication not to be detected. Deception in communication has the purpose of concealment of information and pretense (Nanda & Alexander, 1994).
The transformation of Jack’s character makes him an enemy to surgeon Murray. This surgeon wants Jack to lie under an oath in a medical malpractice suit. Jack McKee manages to avoid the trap of using deceptive language because of the transformation of his character. If Jack McKee had not changed, he would have easily fallen for Murray’s trap.
Communication between the patient and the doctor is a very important component of health care. Efficient communication between the doctor and the patient means that the doctor and the patient have a good partnership. This partnership makes the patient aware of the nature of his conditions and ways of addressing the problem (Simon & Shumen, 2007).
In the movie The Doctor, the protagonist Jack McKee does not value good relationships with his patients. He only cares about achieving treatment goals without heeding the welfare of his patients. However, after Jack McKee undergoes the transformation of character towards the end of the movie, he becomes a surgeon that highly values good communication between physicians and patients.
The Doctor is a perfect example of a film that portrays how different communication contexts have consequences in the medical field. It is a film that can help doctors understand how cultural contexts influence the outcome of treatment procedures.
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