Created By: Goldfritha on January 7, 2012 Last Edited By: Goldfritha on February 29, 2012
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Doctors Orders

Doctors agree: even authorities should obey doctors.

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McCoy: I would like to remedy that situation.
Spock: If you believe I have acted irregularly, then relieve me of duty. That is your prerogative as medical officer of this ship.

You're The Leader, the Reasonable Authority Figure, The Captain, The Emperor! You rule a world,a galaxy, a dimension, multiple universes! Everyone obeys you! Even if you do have a cold, or a broken arm! So why does this man try to order you about? And acts huffy when you don't obey in haste?

Well, he's your doctor. By which we mean, he is that kind of doctor. Unless, of course, he's the healer, the midwife, the nurse, The Medic, or any other member of the healing profession.

No matter what exalted position their patients hold, and what power the patient has over the doctor in non-medical matters, in their field of expertise, doctors are adament that they are in charge. This does not mean that the patient will actually obey -- even the Reasonable Authority Figure may defy him for reasons of state -- but the doctor will regard it as being a bad patient, not their exercising rightful authority.

Examples

Advertising Film
  • This is the premise of Analyze This: a mob boss needs a psychiatrist, who has trouble helping him because he's afraid to assert himself.

Literature
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, Menelaus can talk casually with the effective ruler of Earth. When he must be examined by a doctor, he finds it much harder to assert himself.
  • In Harry Potter, Madam Pomphrey asserted herself quite strongly in The Prisoner of Azkaban when authority figures wanted to speak to students in her care.
    • Later, Dumbledore averts this trope when he instead goes to the more trustworthy Snape.
  • Zig-Zagged in Artemis Fowl: The Corrupt Corporate Executive's doctors are very much aware of his Mafia connections, so they give medical advice very politely. In fact, when he sends his secretary out for celebratory cigars, she invokes this trope by trying to remind him of what the doctors said before remebering who she's talking to.
  • Happens all the time in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series. Healers commands are more or less absolute.

Live-Action TV
  • Comes up sometimes in Star Trek, where the ship's doctor has the authority to relieve the captain of command in the matters of health.
    • Such as in The Tholian Web, where Spock tells him to do it if he believes it proper.
  • Doc Martin is routinely frustrated by patients ignoring his advice and doing what they want. One woman nearly killed herself trying to function with a herniated vertebra.
  • Comes up on Merlin. Gaius is one of the few people who can often give Uther direction without getting in trouble, although Uther still tends to yell a lot. Granted,his advice has gone outside the medical realm a few times, again mostly to Uther telling him to get lost.
  • A plot point in the Horatio Hornblower Made-for-TV Movie Mutiny involved the officers of the HMS Renown having to convince the ship's doctor to declare Captain Sawyer medically unfit to command due to his slipping sanity.

Theater
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's radio play The Man Born To Be King, she put notes down for King Herod's physician: he must speak with authority, even though he's giving those orders to the king.

Web Comics
  • In Girl Genius, Dr. Sun berates Baron Wulfenbach when he disobeys the doctor's orders.

Real Life
  • In Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting a hospital, and hadn't done all the health and safety stuff. The doctor, as you will not be surprised to find out, shouted down the prime minister.
  • There was a US Supreme Court Justice [[hottip:*:they serve until they retire or die, whichever comes first]] who had an agreement with his doctor: he would serve until the doctor said he was getting too senile to be able to render decisions. As soon as his doctor told him that, he announced his retirement. (I don't remember which one though; it was a relavitely recent one, like in the past 15-20 years.)

Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • January 7, 2012
    nitrokitty
    Comes up sometimes in Star Trek, where the ship's doctor has the authority to relieve the captain of command in the matters of health.
  • January 7, 2012
    FallenLegend
    In Doctor Who Unit high officials have little respect for the police. But even them obey The doctor mainly due to the fact they have a great respect for him.
  • January 7, 2012
    Goldfritha
    I don't think Doctor Who is an example since it's not in a medical field where he is obeyed. Besides, he does have an official position in UNIT
  • January 7, 2012
    Loquacia
    there was a famous RL moment in Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting a hospital, and hadn't done all the health and safety stuff. The doctor, as you will not be surprised to find out, shouted down the prime minister: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JapsssNVs4 (I dunno how to do the formatting for links, sorry!)

    In Harry Potter, Madam Pomphrey was well-known for being formiddable, but Dumbledore averts this trope when he instead goes to [[spoiler the more trustworthy]] Snape.
  • January 7, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
    Harry Potter doesn't fit at all.
  • January 8, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Doc Martin is routinely frustrated by patients ignoring his advice and doing what they want. One woman nearly killed herself trying to function with a herniated vertebra.
  • January 9, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Averted in Artemis Fowl: The Corrupt Corporate Executive's doctors are very much aware of his Mafia connections, so they give medical advice very politely. In fact, when he sends his secretary out for celebratory cigars, she invokes this trope by trying to remind him of what the doctors said before remebering who she's talking to.
    • I think it was in Doctor Dolittle: One patient with an allergy to shellfish keeps coming back to the hospital because she won't stop eating shellfish. The doctor is not amused, and asks if she has a Death Wish.
  • January 9, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Doctor Dolittle treated animals. . . .
  • January 9, 2012
    NoirGrimoir

    I think the description should emphasize 'medical advisers' and mention healers, physicians and midwives. I thought this was talking about Phds.
  • January 10, 2012
    Snoninja12
    I agree with the above troper, and I think it should also place a bit less emphasis on The Emperor and the like. Add some examples of The Hero in the opener or maybe even Ridiculously Average Guy.
  • January 11, 2012
    Goldfritha
    And why would The Hero or the Ridiculously Average Guy hold a position that makes the doctor's assertion of authority over them noteworthy?
  • January 12, 2012
    Snoninja12
    Because it applies to everyone and not just The Emperor? In fact, several of the examples are of the good guys. The Star Trek example, Harry Potter...

    I'm just saying that the introduction makes it seem like it only applies to evil doers. If you only want it to apply to the most powerful and evil characters, then change the examples accordingly.
  • January 12, 2012
    Goldfritha
    It doesn't apply to everyone. It applies to powerful people.
  • January 13, 2012
    Snoninja12
    Okay, so not Ridiculously Average Guy, but it should still explain that it is because of the person's power, not that they are evil. There are plenty of characters with power that aren't evil, and they probably outnumber the evil ones.
  • January 13, 2012
    Generality
    Part of the reason this happens is because of Appeal To Authority. Although this trope as portrayed generally shows the doctor being in the right.

    • This is the premise of Analyze This: a mob boss needs a psychiatrist, who has trouble helping him because he's afraid to assert himself.
  • January 15, 2012
    aurora369
    Averted heavily by Joseph Stalin. In his last years, he massively distrusted doctors, fearing they will poison him, and even started the heavily anti-Semitic "Doctors' Case".
  • January 17, 2012
    chicagomel
    Comes up on Merlin. Gaius is one of the few people who can often give Uther direction without getting in trouble, although Uther still tends to yell a lot. Granted,his advice has gone outside the medical realm a few times, again mostly to Uther telling him to get lost.
  • January 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    There was a US Supreme Court Justice [[hottip:*:they can't be removed - they serve until they retire or die, whichever comes first]] who told his doctor to order him to step down if/when he was getting too senile to be able to render decisions. As soon as his doctor told him that, he announced his retirement. (I don't remember which one though; it was a relavitely recent one, like in the past 15-20 years.)
  • January 27, 2012
    AFP
    Live Action Television:

    • A plot point in the Horatio Hornblower Made For TV Movie Mutiny involved the officers of the HMS Renown having to convince the ship's doctor to declare Captain Sawyer medically unfit to command due to his slipping sanity.
  • January 27, 2012
    Rognik
    If the title confuses people, maybe the title could be changed to "Medical Authority" instead of Doctoral, so that it's clear that anyone who knows herbs or drugs is not to be disobeyed.

    To Snoninja12, I understand what the trope is trying to say here. You have this incredibly powerful, who is the leader or ruler, god or bad. However, there is one man who can order him around, and a commoner no less: the doctor/healer.

    I think there's a touch of Truth In Television here. Perhaps royalty are generally not so vulnerable to the doctor's order, but as far as I know (which isn't much), a commander could easily be relieved of duty for medical reasons.
  • January 27, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Relieved of duty -- yes, but easily not so much.
  • January 28, 2012
    AFP
    As an alternate title, I thought of "Almighty Medic", but then that verges into Snow Clone territory. Medical Authority could work too.
  • January 31, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Is the title a problem? How many people think so?
  • January 31, 2012
    Rognik
    I definitely think this title is a problem. As people keep pointing out, it could be confusing those who have a doctorate (the scientific type) being the one to say that the world is about to end or some such from the medical doctors having authority.
  • February 28, 2012
    Arivne
    Doctors Orders?

    Which is generally understood to refer to medical doctors.

    Must Obey Doctors Orders? Doctors Orders Must Be Obeyed?
  • February 28, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Invoked in a series of ads for Dr. Pepper where various people (Kelsey Grammar, Gene Simmons, Dr Dre, etc.) who are known in pop culture for being or having the nickname "doctor" shill for Mountain Dew saying, "trust me, I'm a doctor."

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