Patch Adams

Patch Adams begins in a mental institution, where the protagonist (played by Robin Williams) realizes that much sickness is rooted in one’s lack of perspective on life, and humor can thus provide curative healing powers. He then enrolls in medical school to bring his newly found wisdom into practice. However, the medical establishment favors keeping an impersonal distance between doctor and patient, a practice that appears absurd to Adams. In much of the film he brings humor to patients at a hospital attached to the medical school, thus incurring the wrath of a particular professor of medicine who is more interested in maintaining an authoritarian posture than in healing patients. Adams persists, founds a storefront clinic in the hills of West Virginia, and gets his medical degree. As the film closes, titles inform us that Adams is still seeking funds to build a permanent facility at the site. His method of personalizing health care comes at a time when, in pursuing lower costs by any means necessary, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are moving toward even more depersonalization, so we should not be surprised if HMOs end up treating more chronic illnesses and not containing costs after all. MH