Patch Adams’ Speech
Hunter Adams. You’ve been accused of practicing medicine without a license.
That’s a very grave charge, son. Are you aware that it’s unlawful to practice medicine without a medical license?
Yes, sir, I am.
Are you aware that running a medical clinic without the proper licensing… can place both you and the public… in a great deal of danger?
Is a home a clinic, sir?
If you are admitting patients and treating them… physical location is irrelevant.
Sir, will you define treatment for me?
Yes. Treatment would be defined as the care of a patient seeking medical attention. Have you been treating patients, Mr. Adams?
I live with several people. They come and go as they please.I offer them whatever help I can.
Mr. Adams… have you or have you not been treating patients at your ranch?
Everyone who comes to the ranch is a patient, yes.And every person who comes to the ranch is also a doctor.
Every person who comes to the ranch is in need… of some form of physical or mental help.They’re patients.But also every person who comes to the ranch is in charge of taking care of someone else–whether it’s cooking for them, cleaning them… or even as simple a task as listening. That makes them doctors. I use that term broadly, but is not a doctor someone who helps someone else? When did the term "doctor" get treated with such reverence, as, "Right this way, Doctor Smith"… or, "Excuse me, Dr. Scholl, what wonderful footpads"… or, "Pardon me, Dr. Patterson, but your flatulence has no odor"? At what point in history did a doctor become more… than a trusted and learned friend who visited and treated the ill? Now, you ask me if I’ve been practicing medicine. Well, if this means opening your door to those in need–those in pain–caring for them, listening to them, applying a cold cloth until a fever breaks–if this is practicing medicine, if this is treating a patient… then I am guilty as charged, sir.
Did you consider the ramifications of your actions? What if one of your patients had died?
What’s wrong with death, sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity and decency… and, God forbid, maybe even humor? Death is not the enemy, gentlemen. If we’re gonna fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all–indifference. Now, I’ve sat in your schools and heard people lecture on transference… and professional distance. Transference is inevitable, sir. Every human being has an impact on another. Why don’t we want that in a patient/doctor relationship? That’s why I’ve listened to your teachings, and I believe they’re wrong. A doctor’s mission should be not just to prevent death… but also to improve the quality of life. That’s why you treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you win, no matter what the outcome. Now here today, this room is full of medical students. Don’t let them anesthetize you. Don’t let them numb you out to the miracle of life. Always live in awe of the glorious mechanism of the human body. Let that be the focus of your studies and not a quest for grades… which’ll give you no idea what kind of doctor you will become.
Please try and address the board.
Don’t wait till you’re on the ward to get your humanity back. Start your interviewing skills. Start talking to strangers. Talk to your friends, Talk to wrong numbers, everyone.
And cultivate friendships… with those amazing people in the back of the room–nurses that could teach you. They’ve been with people every day. They wade through blood. They have a wealth of knowledge, and so do the professors you respect–the ones who are not dead from the heart up. Share their compassion. Let that be contagious.
Mr. Adams. I demand that you turn and address the board.
Sir, I want to be a doctor with all my heart. I wanted to become a doctor so I could serve others… and because of that I’ve lost everything… but I’ve also gained everything. I’ve shared the lives of patients and staff members at the hospital. I’ve laughed with them. I’ve cried with them. This is what I want to do with my life. And as God is my witness… no matter what your decision today, sir… I will still become the best [dang] doctor the world has ever seen. Now you have the ability to prevent me from graduating. You can keep me from getting the title and the white coat. But you can’t control my spirit, gentlemen. You can’t keep me from learning. You can’t keep me from studying. So you have a choice–you could have me as a professional colleague… passionate… or you can have me as an outspoken outsider, still adamant. Either way, I’ll probably still be viewed as a thorn. But I promise you one thing. I’ll be a thorn that will not go away.
Is that all?
I hope not, sir.
We will adjourn briefly.
Hunter Adams. We find your methods less than appealing. Your appearance and your demeanor do not reflect… what we believe is necessary… to earn a patient’s trust and respect. You openly accuse us of adhering to time-honored practices… that for years have been the backbone of the entire medical institution. However… we find no fault in your attempts… to improve the quality of life around you. We find no fault in your desire… to expand upon existing medical practices… and theories.We applaud your love of the patient. Your grades are among the highest in your class… and, therefore, we find no merit in the decision… to block your graduation from medical school. Now, along with your crass and disdainful behavior… you carry with you a flame… which one could only hope… would spread through the medical profession like a brushfire. And, uh, Dean Walcott… in the future, I think matters like this… could best be solved if you yourself would practice a little… "excessive happiness.
"Well, today you go…from being students in a class to being members of a class–a very select class. You face the future with your heads held high… because you are now… doctors.
Dr. Michael Ames…
Dr. Doris Ackerman…
Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams.
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