Reel Medical Inaccuracies

Pankti Parikh Shamama Khan

3rd year MBBS GGMC, Mumbai

Terna Medical College, Navi Mumbai

Film- the 21st century gateway to an entire spectrum of emotions and knowledge- is what gives us, Generation Z, something to keep looking for! 

When this very art form collides with medicine, the science of humans and their well-being, the outcome can either prove to be a miraculous Elixir or a dreadful Pandora’s box with nothing in between. Scenes on TV which portray medicine can be a thrilling eye-opener for the masses, but for medical professionals tend to be huge pet peeves! 

Here is our list of some inaccuracies showcased in movies that gets on the nerves of medical professionals: 

CPR procedure – a boon if done right, a fatal bane if gone wrong!

Almost nothing is ever correct when the procedure of CPR is depicted on the big screen. Just thumps on the chest of the victim by the main lead seems enough to bring back a person from death, when we all know this is absolutely impractical! Nick Jonas’s Jumanji does the same! 

Instead, CPR which is performed by a trained person involves external chest compressions and rescue breathing with a few crucial steps and positions- certainly not what the movies have fed us! 

  • Kidnapper’s best friend- Chloroform:

As shown in an endless number of shows, when kidnappers press a handkerchief soaked in chloroform against the nose of the victim, he immediately loses consciousness. 

The fact of the matter is that even with a perfectly measured dose of Chloroform, it would take at least 5-8 minutes to render someone unconscious! 

  • The electrocution saga

Electrocution in movies and dramas are depicted as dramatically as possible. One such scene portraying electrocution is in Jurassic Park, where the middle-school aged grandson of the park’s inventor, is electrocuted on the perimeter fence of a dinosaur pen. He collapses to the ground and soon Dr. Grant proceeds to give Tim mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions, and in exactly 26 seconds Tim coughs several times and wakes up. Remarkable! We should note that this sort of recovery from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest only happens in the movies! 

  • Doctor Patient Confidentiality 

In the movie- Kal Ho Naa Ho, the cardiologist of Shah Rukh Khan, narrates his entire medical history to Preity Zinta in a Jewellery store. 

In real life, stringent legal action can be taken against any doctor who breaks this extremely important rule of Doctor Patient Confidentiality, the cornerstone of medical ethics.

  • When the ventilator spoke! 

Million Dollar Baby won the Academy Award for Best Picture, yet the concluding scenes vital to the movie’s plot are both medically impossible and unrealistic. Maggie is paralyzed from the neck down and is hospitalized in a private room. She tells her coach that she doesn’t want to go on living like a paralyzed invalid. Well, the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible for Maggie to talk if she’s on a ventilator. Maggie has a tracheotomy, with the breathing tube inserted in the front of her neck, below the level of the vocal cords. A patient cannot speak with a tracheotomy tube in place because all ventilation takes place below the vocal cords. If Maggie can’t speak, she can’t utter her lines, and she can’t partake in the dialogue with Clint, but then, that would be a reel disaster!

  • You wouldn’t use a defibrillator on a flatlined patient. 

A doctor wouldn’t defibrillate a patient if they are flat lining, you would use it if they are pulseless. There’s a difference. It’s a common scenario on TV: A patient flat lines and a team of doctors rushes to revive them by using jolts of electricity from defibrillator paddles. A defibrillator is definitely a life-saving device for certain cardiac emergencies, but doctors wouldn’t use one on a flatlining patient because there is no electrical activity in their heart to “reset” into a normal heart rhythm with the device. It sounds plausible, but it’s actually totally inaccurate.

  • You can’t win a match after a shoulder dislocation

Yes, you got that right. Dishoom, starring John Abraham and Varun Dhawan showcases this very event! 

Fixing a dislocation by yourself is not only a hard pill to swallow, but immediately batting sixes which needs immense shoulder power is definitely way out of line. 

  • A Push of life! 

Giving birth in 3-4 pushes with making delivery a life-threatening event without the presence of midwives not only makes it a questionable matter to the medicos but creates a paranoia among soon-to-be-mother

Apart from Bollywood, the Western media, despite being more sophisticated and modern, fails to bring out ethically and technically accurate medical scenes, be it renowned TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Doctor. Fallacies sometimes add a little more spice to the plot, but practically may prove to be dreadfully misleading and wrong!

The reel world might be one of the greatest sources of knowledge and entertainment in our world but when it crosses paths with medicine, it tends to bend reality and without proper context and facts, becomes a disaster! Barring a few exceptions, most movies dealing with medical issues have, however, failed in this regard and lost a golden opportunity to educate the lay public. Correct depiction of medicine and health related issues in the movies is important so as not to further miseducate our already ill-educated masses. Review of every movie by a medical board may be a preemptive step but is not a practical solution; a medical advisor to the director would probably be an easier and more practical option. 

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.