Daily activities of the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, with emphasis on the emergency ward and outpatient clinics. The cases depicted illustrate how medical expertise, availability... See full summary »

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Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Eugene Friedman ...
Himself (as Eugene Friedman M.D.)
Stanley Friedman ...
Himself (as Stanley Friedman M.D.)
Robert Schwartz ...
Himself (as Robert Schwartz M.D.)
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Daily activities of the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, with emphasis on the emergency ward and outpatient clinics. The cases depicted illustrate how medical expertise, availability of resources, organizational considerations and the nature of communication among the staff and patients affect the delivery of health care. Written by Anonymous

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2 February 1970 (USA)  »

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Nosokomeio  »

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On Ethics
23 August 2002 | by (Montreal, Canada) – See all my reviews

In my entry on "High School", talked about how Wiseman was criticized for showing a close-up of a girl with over sized glasses. Some considered that shot to be unnesesarry and potentially embarrassing to the girl. However, are such issues really the filmmakers problem? Should he just film what he sees? Perhaps Wiseman didn't find the girl to be awkward looking at all.

But the above example is only a minor one. Here's a more problematic example. In "Hospital", there is a scene in which a nurse questions an elderly man. The old man begins to cry as he confesses his fears about possibly having cancer. In addition the doctor asks him many intimate and embarrassing questions about sores on his genitals and the condition of his urine. The first part of the scene consists mainly of a close-up of the man's face as he talks to the doctor. The second part takes place after the doctor has examined the man's genitals. Importantly, Wiseman does not show the examination, indicating a concern for the man's privacy. Even the sustained take of the man crying, despite the fact that he might be embarrassed to see it later, lets us identify with, and have sympathy for the old man. We realize that his fears are justified, and he does not look foolish for crying.

But there are still ethical questions to be asked. In his essay, "Ultimately We Are All Outsiders: The Ethics of Documentary Filming", after giving a dramatic description of the above mentioned scene, attempting to place us into the shoes of the old man (describing Wiseman and his crew as "strangers") critic Calvin Pryluck writes: "How valid would you consent be if one of the strangers tells you, as Wiseman does, 'We just took your picture and it's going to be for a movie, it's going to be shown on television and maybe in theaters… do you have any objections?' Wiseman finds, as did Allen Funt of 'Candid Camera,' that few people do object."

Pryluck then states that there is pressure placed on people to agree to be filmed in situations like that. 'The picture gets taken, and damn the consequences' he writes. Pryluck's doubt about the validity of the permission given to Wiseman to film is justifiable. It could be possible that in a situation like that, the old man would not be in the proper frame of mind to give permission to let a camera crew film him.

However, Pryluck's statement is in itself manipulative. How does he know what Wiseman says when he asks permission? How does he know that Wiseman pressures his subjects? How does he know that Wiseman films first, then asks permission? Although Wiseman has stated that he tries to remain "invisible" while filming, he has also stated that the subject knows that he is there from the beginning. As to whether he pressures his subjects, Wiseman himself stated in a 1998 interview with "The Boston Pheonix": "I try to be friendly, and I hope that I am friendly, but not phony. I try not to convey the impression that we are going to be friends for a long period of time." Pryluck's comparison of Wiseman's style to that of "Candid Camera" is also unfair in that Wiseman does try to surprise his subjects, does not use actors to provoke responses from subjects, and does not set out to make comedy.

What about comedy? If there is a situation that ends up being humorous, and a person in the scene could be made to look foolish, is Wiseman really calling the person a fool? In another scene from Hospital, one that seems to be very entertaining and amusing to audiences, a young man is brought in claiming that he is sick from pills he had swallowed that were given to him by a stranger in the park. After a long and funny scene in which he repeatedly asks "am I gonna die?" and the very patient doctor reassures him that he will not, he is placed on a stretcher and rolled into the next room. Cut to the next scene, where the patient is in the room talking to two policemen who are trying to find out more about the man who gave the patient the drugs. All of a sudden, the patient begins to throw up all over the place, splattering vomit on himself and the policemen. In between attempts to apologize, not only to the policemen, but it seems for his entire life up until that point, he continues to spew out more vomit than it would be thought the human body could contain. Finally after all is done he sits on the stretcher looking very embarrassed and says to himself, "I think I should go back with my family."

This scene elicits big laughs from the audience. In the previously discussed scene, we get the impression that because it is dramatic, we can identify with the patient, and therefore it is not exploitative. Here however, a point could be made that it is exploitative, because we are not encouraged to identify with the subject, but laugh at his situation. A case could be made though, that because his situation was not life threatening, we could afford to laugh at it. Perhaps that young man, now middle aged, would laugh at that footage as we do were we to see it today. Still the fact that Wiseman chooses to focus on it so graphically could give credence to those who would call it sensationalism. Then again the graphic nature of the scene could help to illustrate what hospital workers have to go through every day.


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