Doctors Orders YKTTW Discussion

Doctors Orders
Doctors agree: even authorities should obey doctors.
(permanent link) added: 2012-01-07 07:16:55 sponsor: Goldfritha (last reply: 2012-02-29 15:12:55)

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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.


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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.)

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