Movie Review: Patch Adams

For my movie assignment I decided to write about “Patch Adams”. This was a movie I watched many times when I was younger, and loved. I was eager to have an excuse to watch this great movie again, and even to this day, couldn’t contain my tears. Throughout the course, I actually referenced the movie several times and found many similarities to what we were learning about, in a real life setting (or movie setting).

Patch Adams is about a suicidal man, Patch (Robin Williams) who checks himself into a mental hospital, hoping to help himself out of his depression. After being there for only a little while he realizes he has a passion for helping people, and wants to do so by going to medical school and becoming a doctor. From his start in medical school, Patch is one of the smartest in his class, he soon makes many friends, but many enemies as well. Many of his peers and professors don’t agree with his comical and modern look on treatment. Patch spends all of his free time visiting the hospital to make patients laugh, especially the children. He believes that by keeping there spirits up they will not only be happier but their conditions will improve as well. He leans away from the traditional approach of medicine and often argues and questions the practices that doctors use at the school. The dean of his college tries several times to prevent his graduation as he feels his approach away from the traditional view of medicine isn’t right and should’t be practiced. He does everything he can to proves those who doubt him wrong, even by eventually opening his own clinic, where is form of medicine is practiced. Ultimately Patch sets out to show the world that there is more to medicine than just diagnosis and drugs, some treatments go beyond what you can learn in a textbook, and many times, can prove to be even more effective.
I found several similarities throughout this movie that relate back to what we have learned in class. I chose this movie because I feel that it touches on some of the most important topics we discussed in class, and gives some great examples. In week 2 we discussed how the relationship between clinical patients, doctors, and each other can all be beneficial to each other (Gabriel 2.1). When Patch is in the mental hospital at the beginning of the movie, all the patients are hostile, they don’t respond to the doctors or each other. During one group session a doctor has with Patch and several other patients, Patch begins making jokes, relating to them, and going to their level. All of the patients respond with happiness and joy, they are able to laugh and be themselves and finally open up because some is listening to them and understanding them; the doctor of the hospital becomes frustrated and leaves. He tells Patch on his way out of the hospital that he knows how to treat people and the therapy and drugs he uses truly does work. Patch can only disagree as he experienced first hand how his non-traditional treatment helped the patients more than the doctor ever had.
Ultimately Patch was against traditional medical practices, he felt that in order for someone to get better, the entire patient had to be looked at, not just the body.This is why he took the time to get to know patients, to talk to them, make them laugh, and try his best to understand what could help their treatment the most, besides a drug. One specific example for Patch Adams that stuck with me happened towards the beginning. Patch and one of his buddies had snuck into a 3rd year medical class that was meeting with patients around the hospital. The teacher of the class walked up to a patient that was suffering from sever diabetes and had soared and bruises all over her legs. He began talking about her symptoms, what the possible treatments were, and the outcomes. The entire time the woman looked terrified as the doctor had never addressed her once, just her body. The doctor asked if there were any questions and Patch asked “What is her name?”. I think this is a great example of how doctors often times pay too much attention to a person’a body and not the actual person and their mental state. During one of the first few weeks of class we read a section of Kleinman’s Book Illness Narrative, that I immediately related to this part of the movie. During this part of the book a doctor is asking a women about her disease such as “Where it began”, the women answers “During college”, and is then cut off by the physician as he means where on the body did the problem begin. In this sense, he didn’t care about the woman herself, he wanted medical and scientific answers only so he could analyze her symptoms that way, the only way that he knew how. As we read and watched in class, Dr. Farmer was a huge advocate for the mental well-being of his patients. He believed that there were some things more effective than drugs in healing patients. Such as the clinic he opened that was mentioned “Democracy Now!” video, he made it “visually appealing”. He wanted to make it a place that was uplifting so he could make his patients feel that they were in a safe uplifting atmosphere.
I think one of the biggest faults in our health care system is that the entire person is not taken into account, just their physical being. I think this is the most important topic we discussed this semester and that the movie Patch Adams does an excellent job of displaying this topic. It is unfortunate that the brilliant actor Robin Williams suffered and eventually died from a mental disease himself. I think this event emphasizes the fact even more that mental health is a real thing and that people are not just bodies, they have souls and feelings, and all need to be considered when treating them.

Democracy Now! D Anthropology 370. MSU. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.

“Explanatory Models” and Interpretive Theory: Learning about Health through Ethnography. Cynthia Gabriel. Lecture 2.1. 2016. Accessed August 15, 2016.

Kleinman, Arthur. Chapter 7 (excerpts) – “Conflicting Explanatory Models in the Care of the Chronically Ill” In The Illness Narratives




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