What Does It Mean to Be a Doctor: Lessons from "The English Surgeon"

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This essay on being a doctor could be inspired by the documentary 'The English Surgeon', which portrays the journey of a compassionate and empathetic neurosurgeon, Dr. Henry Marsh, who faces the difficulties of a mismanaged hospital in Ukraine, striving to improve patients' lives under any circumstances and always prioritizing hope as a fundamental value of a doctor's duty.

‘The English Surgeon’ is a transcendent documentary which displays the influential journey of an English neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh, who visits a mismanaged hospital in Ukraine and is shocked by the devastating conditions. The documentary expresses the true values of a doctor, by presenting Dr Marsh as a compassionate, empathetic but also realistic doctor striving to improve patients’ lives under any circumstances.

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From the beginning, we are exposed to Dr. Marsh’s self-effacing, heroic nature as he’s determined to change the conditions of the Ukrainian hospital, stating, “I couldn’t respect myself after seeing so much suffering”. Even after discouragement from Ukrainian doctors, as he’s told that there’s nothing he can do without changing the established government system, Dr. Marsh takes responsibility. His determination is demonstrated as he performs operations on Ukrainian patients and publishes newspaper articles to raise awareness for the patients' lives that are being compromised by the flawed system. Dr Marsh is passionate and his fidelity to his values, including the Hippocratic Oath, is evident. Despite the lack of government funding and equipment, it was inspirational to see Dr. Marsh and his Ukrainian colleague Dr. Igor, successfully remove a brain tumor from a patient using a drill and improvised apparatus. This demonstrates how highly these doctors value patients’ lives and highlights what it means to be a doctor isn’t simply a career but a duty.

Throughout the documentary, there’s a recurring motto that “we must give hope”. When Dr. Marsh diagnoses patients with inoperable brain tumors, he always gives them hope. A scene shows a 23-year-old girl who thinks she has a viral infection due to an insect bite but after analyzing her brain scans, Dr Marsh finds that she will be blinded and dead within 5 years. He is faced with a dilemma but doesn’t immediately remove her illusory hope, and rearranges for her to come back with her mother. This reinforces Dr. Marsh’s words that “hope is more important than anything else in life”, however, he also mentions that there is a fine line between hope and dishonesty.

Being a doctor does not always mean success. Although Dr. Marsh is a highly-skilled doctor, even he has faced failures in his career. His “wishful thinking” resulted in a traumatic incident with a young girl, Tanya, resulting in paralysis before her death as he had operated on a tumor too big. This pivotal experience, in which he says he was “swayed by emotion,” forced him to realize the consequences of providing false optimism, which opposes his conviction in the importance of hope. Dr. Marsh felt that in this situation, he failed to adhere to the Hippocratic clause “Do no harm”. The decision-making responsibility of a doctor is evidently a very difficult aspect of the career and this is highlighted when Dr Marsh says “Brain surgery is easy. It’s the decision when to do it that’s difficult”.

All of Dr. Marsh’s work was not done for materialistic gains, conveying that it isn’t only status but it’s being an empathetic and caring individual that what does it mean to be a doctor. Dr Marsh is an inspirational character who has faced failure and tough decisions but his altruism and ardent character are surpassing. The documentary concludes with an inspirational message which highlights a doctor’s purpose as Dr. Marsh says “What are we if we don’t try to help others, we’re nothing at all”.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Doctor: Lessons from “The English Surgeon”. (2023, May 02). WritingBros. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-true-meaning-of-being-a-doctor-lessons-from-the-english-surgeon/
“What Does It Mean to Be a Doctor: Lessons from “The English Surgeon”.” WritingBros, 02 May 2023, writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-true-meaning-of-being-a-doctor-lessons-from-the-english-surgeon/
What Does It Mean to Be a Doctor: Lessons from “The English Surgeon”. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-true-meaning-of-being-a-doctor-lessons-from-the-english-surgeon/> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
What Does It Mean to Be a Doctor: Lessons from “The English Surgeon” [Internet]. WritingBros. 2023 May 02 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-true-meaning-of-being-a-doctor-lessons-from-the-english-surgeon/
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