Professor of Media and Society Les Friedman was a featured guest speaker on 89.7 WGBH’s “The Callie Crossley Show,” where he explored how medicine, health care and issues about medical ethics are represented in film. The interview aired on Tuesday, March 27.
“The whole idea of what health care costs, whether it is a right, privilege, or should only be available to those who can afford it, is an issue with the Supreme Court right now,” notes Friedman, who was invited on the show to discuss health care in correlation with the Supreme Court’s examination of the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “One of the things that film and television does really well is take an abstract problem like health care and gives it a human face, so we can look in the face of the father who can’t afford the operation for the child. It takes the issue from a very abstract, philosophical discussion to a very concrete, emotional discussion. That’s what media does.”
Hitting at the heart of this idea of access to health care, Crossley references the 2002 movie “John Q,” featuring Denzel Washington, in which a down-on-his luck father, whose insurance will not cover his son’s heart transplant, takes the hospital’s emergency room hostage until the doctors agree to perform the operation.
“What’s interesting in this film is that the villain is not the doctor, it’s the hospital administrator and the insurance company,” says Friedman, noting that the doctor in this case is willing to do the operation but is stopped by the administrator. “However, it’s a double-edged sword, because we’re the patients, but on the other hand, someone has to provide the funds so that the hospital can continue treating patients.”
Friedman notes that, generally speaking, health care and medicine are traditionally portrayed as one of the great American institutions in film and television.
“However, since the insurance companies took over the dissemination of health care, we’ve discovered that the doctor and the nurse are human beings ruled by passions, just like the rest of us,” says Friedman. “Now, portrayals are a lot more mixed, even tending towards the negative.”
Hosted by award-winning journalist Callie Crossley, “The Callie Crossley Show” offers a daily discussion of local happenings, arts and culture, and water cooler buzz from Boston and New England. In turn, she invites the community to weigh in, providing a forum for listeners to tap into the talk of your town.
To listen to Friedman’s full appearance on “The Callie Crossley Show,” visit http://www.wgbh.org/programs/The-Callie-Crossley-Show-855/episodes/Tue-32712Media-and-Medicine-37348.