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 going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.
– Patch Adams (in the movie) played by Robin Williams
Robin Williams, a brilliant actor who pulled off comic roles so naturally in Hollywood
movies committed suicide earlier today. One of his better known movies, Mrs. Doubtfire for example, is known in our parts for its adaptation by Kamal Hassan in the Tamil movie Avvai Shanmughi or re-made in Hindi as Chachi 420.
I vividly remember being introduced to him through a movie of his that I watched, where he played an American doctor called “Patch Adams”. Patch Adams is a real doctor, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, who doubles as a clown as well. Hunter Adams joined medical school in his late twenties after battling depression and went on to humanise medicine and the way it is taught in his own school. Along with his friends, Hunter Adams set up a “fun hospital” where doctors don’t prance around like super-sciency unapproachable know-it-alls but humbly care for people (not cases). Then in my second year of medical school in Mysore, Robin Williams’ portrayal of Patch Adams in the movie was, for me a life-changing experience. I was touched by how the practice of medicine is much more than the science of medicine. Patch Adams humanised medicine for me, something that medical school could not achieve. Anyway, it was not his most popular movie. Any of you who have not wached it, please do. In fact Munna Bhai MBBS was, in my opinion, a more superficial and rather cheap adaptation of Patch Adams.
So, it appears that Robin Williams, known for his joviality, cheerfulness and exuding happiness committed suicide unable to battle severe alcoholism and apparently, severe depression too. This nice piece on cracked.com addresses this very oft-asked question: how come people who are so full of fun and cheer sometimes commit suicide! Although with a lot of pop-psych, the last parts of the article struck a deep chord in me. As we go about our busy lives, we might forget to care, to listen and to be sensitive to each other. Who knows, we might contribute to somebody’s happiness, and we don’t need to be doctors for this, just people is enough.
The real Patch Adams, a doctor and a social activist still lives on trying to build an alternate hospital that is not affected by the ills of insurance in the US. He continues to be a clown too, it seems! I was indeed fortunate to meet a doctor who had worked at the earlier Virginia-based facility of Patch Adams, during my early days in BR Hills.