Originally, I truly enjoyed this movie. Patch Adams, based on real life Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams (played by Robin Williams), shows Adams’ struggle to try and practice medicine in a way that he believes is far more beneficial. He believes in the use of humor and connecting with patients. It is a literal ‘laughter is the best medicine’ policy. The reason I have become wary of the film is the reaction of the real Adams. He has stated that he “hates the film,” and believes it to be a simplified version of his view.
The point of Patch Adams vision is to create a holistic way of life that benefits health. The point of the movie should be to show this vision off, and to present it to the viewer. Adams’ Gesundheit! Institue wants to use over 300 acres of land to build a full size hospital to care for patients with no insurance. The film, while perhaps emphasizing the humor aspect of Adams’ approach too much, does at least try to show that he truly cares for the patients. The idea should get across that perhaps treating people is only about getting them the right medicine. This realization comes to Adams (in both real life and the movie) when he is checked into a mental hospital. Adams considered suicide multiple times in his early life. When he got to the hospital, he was able to help patients by making them laugh and having a relationship with them.
Adams antics while at medical school put him at odds with the strict, formal training of the administration. Despite this, the film doesn’t ignore the fact that Adams is a smart man. He does graduate from medical school, and recieves good grades on his exams. While in real life Adams may not appreciate the simplified version of his view on medicine he was not robbed of his legitimacy as a doctor.
This film is one that must be taken with a grain of salt. It dramatizes and commercializes some aspects of a man’s life. Even so, it has introduced me to Patch Adams and his goal. In fact, his institute’s website mentions that you have probably heard of him through the film. Despite all his criticism of it, it has exposed some people to his ideas. This movie is a medium (a flawed one) for the message of the man. Medicine isn’t just a science. It is a way to help people. Patch Adams isn’t just about adding humor to life, its about creating a new way of life. For Patch to create this new way of life in the movie he creates a clinic out in the country where he practices medicine on people with no insurance, all while creating a small community. Adams considers himself to be an advocate for societal change, something he believes the world desperately needs. His unorthodox methods aren’t just about non-conformity and making patients laugh like the movie shows, they are, to him, a truly better way to practice medicine.