The Best and Worst Movie Medical Moments of 2013

This will be the first and only time that I’ll ever make any sort of list like this and the only reason I’m doing it is because 2013 has brought me some interesting perspectives about hospitals and doctors and medical procedures that was almost impossible to ignore as I watched movies that invariably either got it right or horribly, horribly wrong.

So yeah, this might not be that interesting to most of you, but I guarantee that it will be the only time you see a list like this, at least on this site, anytime soon. I hope no one reading this ever has to go through what I’ve gone through this past year, but at least when you watch movies, you should know what’s possible and what’s just being made up for artistic license.


Dallas Buyers Club

Three cheers to Jean-Marc Vallee who either did a good amount of research or has spent a bit of time in the hospital himself, because there were so many aspects of the film that were so truthful to someone with HIV who would have immune-suppression issues that I found myself nodding my head at more than a few scenes. (You see, the chemo treatment for my leukemia knocked my white blood cells down putting me in a similar state as Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof at times.) In one scene, Woodroof is in the hospital getting seriously painful leg cramps and in a touching moment, Jared Leto’s character massages the back of his shins. Well, I’ve had those same leg cramps over the months and they are extremely painful and my legs hurt in the exact same place that was being massaged so I really could feel for him.

And then there’s Ron’s trip to Mexico to smuggle in some “Fluconazole,” which is an anti-fungal which again is given people with low immune systems to prevent fungal infections. And guess what? I’ve been taking the stuff for months so hearing it mentioned in the movie made me think, “Why, thank you, Ron Woodroof, for keeping me safe from fungus by smuggling drugs into the country!” Fortunately, I had very nice doctors, more like the one played by Jennifer Garner than the one played by Denis O’Hare, but I could also relate to Ron’s reluctance to just take his doctors’ advice without doing his own research.

We’re the Millers – This may seem like an odd choice, but there was such a strong sense of continuity in the Rawson Marshall Thurber-directed road comedy that when Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston are having a conversation with a doctor, who tells them their “son” (played by Will Poulter of Son of Rambow) has been given a heavy dose of antibiotics to treat a poisonous spider bite on his privates, it’s not really that big a deal. But when we see him a few minutes later and he has a bandage over the crook in his elbow exactly where such an IV would have been placed, it’s one of those little details that I appreciated, because obviously someone on the crew knew that if you get an IV placed and removed, you’re going to need to cover it up afterwards to prevent further infection.

Nebraska – More of a tribute to Alexander Payne’s production designer and set decorator, but the plain Midwestern hospital room where Bruce Dern’s Woody Grant ends up looked pretty accurate in terms of how drab and clinical hospital rooms normally look rather than looking like something out of “Grey’s Anatomy.” They even placed the call button on the bed right where it would be in a normal hospital room.


White House Down – I actually didn’t hate Roland Emmerich’s take on the White House invasion movie–actually, I liked it more than Olympus Has Fallen which came out a few months earlier–but the scene that killed me was when James Woods who (SPOILER) is behind the terrorist attacks (END SPOILER) is trying to deal with the anxiety he’s facing as the sh*t hits the fan, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out some pills and we get a nice close-up of the label saying “Lorazepam.” That cracked me up since I was prescribed Lorazepam to help me ease the anxiety of my chemo treatment and help me sleep and frankly, it pretty much did jack sh*t. Nothing. So to think this guy in this huge attack on the White House with bombs exploding everywhere and major leaders dying just throws back a couple of those and everything was fine was probably my biggest takeaway from that movie… and I was probably the only person for whom that’s the case.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

This is science fiction with all kinds of crazy stuff, so maybe I can forgive a little, but when Katniss wakes up and immediately rips out an IV from her arm towards the end of the movie, believe me, it’s going to hurt and bleed a lot more than she lets on even if she has just endured hell in the Quarter Quell. Those things hurt to put in and they probably hurt even more if you’re not careful while pulling them out.


Also science fiction, but there was this whole subplot involving a young girl with leukemia who Matt Damon’s character wants to bring to Elysium to cure her before she dies. It was the way they depicted this girl, who must have gone through some sort of treatment before being booted out of the hospital on earth. She basically was this pretty little girl with beautiful, long hair and all made-up who just seemed to be a little more tired than normal. With all due respect to Neill Blomkamp, I spent most of the year fighting leukemia and I promise you that I never looked that pretty or felt that good and frankly if I did, I wouldn’t feel like going through all the trouble going to Elysium which includes facing the seemingly unstoppable Sharlto Copley. And frankly, I don’t know any hospital that would literally throw this girl out of there if she’s sick, let alone terminally ill. I was allowed into the hospital and given chemo for my leukemia literally for MONTHS before I had any sort of health insurance to speak of. Takeaway from this one: either ObamaCare doesn’t last long enough to make it to Neill Blomkamp’s future or more likely, his future just plain sucks.

The Heat

Where do I even begin with Sandra Bullock giving someone a tracheotomy in the middle of a fast food restaurant floor? Granted, this is not a procedure I’ve undergone and it was basically done for laughs (and set-up in the most obvious way earlier in the film), but it was just another aspect of the film that proved that most filmmakers have absolutely no respect for medical procedures enough to do a little research about what’s possible.

Now back to our regularly scheduled non-medical movie chatter…