The scene opens with a young woman teaching a group of preteen girls classical ballet.Dr. Steve Kiley(James Brolin)and his brother,Mike(Barry Brown)walk in on the class,and they are charmed by the young dancers.The brothers have come to see the teacher,their sister Ellen(Kathryn Hays.)
The Kileys are planning a non-alcoholic birthday party for their father, a recovering alcoholic.Included in the festivities is their sister's fiancé,Herb.
At a fine restaurant,the party is in full swing.The father,Dan Kiley(Alan Hale), an expansive Irishman who is enjoying himself(despite no liquor) suddenly collapses and is rushed to the hospital.
In the hospital waiting room Mike and Ellen wait anxiously.Steve returns with unsettling news: their father has had a CVA(cerebrovascular accident.)Worse,he has no medical insurance,thus incurring heavy expenses for treatment.Mike is a graduate student,and Ellen,a divorcée with children,so Steve elects to shoulder the entire financial burden.
Although an expensive private hospital,Steve Kiley wants to transfer his father to Lang Memorial Hospital where a Dr.Kingman practices.(He is a preeminent specialist in the care and rehabilitation of stroke victims.) Kiley asks Marcus Welby to intervene for him.Kingman(an imperious individual)does finally agree to oversee Dan Kiley's rehabilitation.
Dan Kiley mistakenly believes that joining Alcoholics Anonymous and "going on the wagon"induced his stroke.Moreover,he is ashamed of his former dereliction toward his three children,and feeling guilty about Steve's generosity,wants instead to enter the Veterans Administration Hospital, which is free.
Steve Kiley is so dedicated in maintaining a lonely vigil over his father that Kingman finally orders Steve to go home and get some real rest in bed, instead of catnapping in a chair.
Marcus visits Dan Kiley,who speaks the pithiest words of wisdom:"No drunk is happy with himself; if he were,he wouldn't need to drink."
The elder Kiley also reiterates his feelings of remorse over neglecting his children,as well as drinking heavily.
Steve,the most enlightened of the children,long ago accepted the fact that his father had the disease of alcoholism; thus,Steve forgives and respects his father,and will go to heroic lengths to save Dan Kiley's life.
Dan Kiley has indicated,however,that in a worst-case scenario he'd rather be dead than nonfunctional.
As Consuelo is fixing Steve a meal at home,Mike Kiley announces he is postponing his Ph.D.studies at M.I.T. to stay and help defray expenses.
Dan Kiley begins an intensive regimen of carbon dioxide and physical therapies.
While watching his father,Steve detects a second CVA occurring on Dan Kiley's left side and summons help.Three doctors examine the comatose Dan Kiley(now on a respirator)and determine that he suffered a massive bilateral CVA.
The prognosis is discouraging: the survival rate is only 2%,and the odds of a full recovery - a miniscule 1%.Nevertheless,Steve wants his father kept on the respirator.
Steve seeks a bank loan; his annual salary is a modest $20,000 per year,so the maximum allowable limit is $5,000.The medical costs are a staggering $200 per day.
Steve asks his sister Ellen to stay with her father but she refuses, because she plans to marry her fiancé soon.Also,she is ashamed of her alcoholic father.
Marcus Welby is feeling the strain of having to cover for Steve Kiley in their practice.Steve is anguished when his brilliant younger brother Mike comes home in a work uniform and announces that he obtained a maintenance job.The others are importuning a resistant Steve to "pull the plug" on their father,and look to Marcus(as a surrogate father figure)to influence Steve's decision.
In discussing the difficult decision with Steve,Marcus counsels him to make his own informed decision, not one influenced by the others.
Allowing Dan Kiley a dignified death by taking him off the respirator would be an ethical decision, and Marcus Welby cites an instructive personal experience.
Marcus saved a fellow doctor named Bob Burroughs after a coronary.The man,however,had been unconscious for nine minutes before CPR was administered - thus sustaining irreversible brain damage.So, a decision was made to "pull the plug..."
The final scene takes place at the cemetery where family and friends are holding Dan Kiley's funeral.All are assembled,and after the services the family are going to return to the house to hold and "Irish wake" for Dan; they will "hoist one" - a final drink - in his honor,to a man who decided to "fight the good fight" (i.e.,against his alcoholism),albeit a trifle too late...
Alan Hale(best known for his role as the Skipper in "Gilligan's Island") was eminently suited to the part of errant father Dan Kiley,and played it with just the right mixture of humor,pathos,and fatalism,all delivered in a soft Irish brogue.
Kathryn Hays(Ellen Kiley)was very convincing as the daughter whose devotion to her father was deficient,owing to his flagrant shortcomings as a strong,responsible paternal influence during their formative years.
Barry Brown(Mike Kiley)reprised his role as the family's baby brother (he also co-starred in the episode "Warn The World About Mike"),and turned in his usual excellent performance - this time,as the Kiley family's wunderkind whose stellar career stood to be underminded by his father's catastrophic(and ruinously expensive)medical emergency.
Although filmed a generation ago(1971),this episode addresses the same problem paramount today(as then)in medicine,viz.,the ethics and feasibility of keeping a critical patient alive vs.the excessive daily costs of that medical care.Although the outcome of the episode was predictable,it's still a memorable show; don't miss it.
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