Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Watching "Amour" Can Teach A Jaded Doctor


We've all had the same experience. You see the decrepit old patient in the hospital who you know doesn't have a chance of having a meaningful life yet the family wants everything done. You just want to shake the family members by the shoulders and ask them "Why are you putting her through this ordeal?" Why is she being scheduled for a feeding tube? Why are they ordering another CT? Why, why why? The cynical answer is that the family is not paying for it therefore they want all means of treatment possible to prolong life regardless of the suffering of the patient.

I just watched a powerful French movie called "Amour". It has been nominated for multiple Oscars this year and I can see why. It is the story of an old Parisian couple named George and Anne. During the course of the movie Anne suffers multiple strokes which renders her increasingly helpless and dependent, the antithesis of the vibrant woman we see at the beginning who likes dancing and going out to concerts.

The film delves into the anguish the family confronts as they try to find out the best way to take care of her. The children want to stick her in a nursing home. George had promised to Anne early while she was still able to make her own decisions that he would never take her back to the hospital no matter how bad her disease progressed. He keeps this promise despite the expense of paying hundreds of euros to hire nurses and doctors to come to the house to take care of her. There are depictions of Anne's disappointments as she tries to hang on to her dignity even as her body and mind fails her. "Amour" even shows the abuse of the elderly as those around them are exhausted from taking care of them.

This movie is a typical art house type of film. It will never win for best score because, well, there are none. Unlike a Hollywood production, there is no soaring music to guide our emotions about what we're seeing on screen. The raw images alone are more than enough to make you feel for this unfortunate family. After watching this, you'll have a different view of that patient in the ICU that the family wants to have every treatment medicine can offer. It may even bring back a little of the idealism and humanity you had when you entered medical school but lost after years of physical and mental abuse in residency and practice. Highly recommended.

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