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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

First Do No Harm
Directed by Jim Abrahams
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 02/97 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - intense emotional and physical depiction of a child's illness

The title of this movie-made-for-television, First Do No Harm, comes from the Hippocratic oath which doctors take as part of their vocation.

However, in many cases physicians are loath to recommend procedures not because they do anyone harm but because their efficacy is not supported by scientific research. This is the case when four-year-old Robbie (Seth Adkins) is diagnosed as having a type of epilepsy for which the cause is unknown. His parents, Lori (Meryl Streep) and Dave (Fred Ward), agree to a series of excruciating drug treatments which only seem to worsen his condition. Their situation becomes more complicated when they learn that their health insurance policy has lapsed.

Then Lori discovers a regimen called the Ketogenic Diet; one-third of the epileptic children on this diet have experienced no additional seizures. Robbie's parents are furious with his doctor (Allison Janney) for not telling them about this treatment and then refusing to facilitate their trying it. Instead, she recommends brain surgery for the boy.

The finale of the drama demonstrates the distance some families have to go to take control of the health and welfare of their loved ones. First Do No Harm presents a blistering attack on the rigidity and insensitivity of the medical establishment.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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