“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – the Ethics of Patient Treatment

1579 Words Jul 6th, 2008 7 Pages
“…She’s somethin’ of a cunt, ain’t she Doc?” Although Milos Foreman’s character, Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), put his opinion of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in the most vulgar of terms, he was not so far from the truth. In the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Nurse Ratched’s treatment and care of the patients was unethical when compared to the standards one would expect of a health care administrator. She used control over her patients to ensure order, without regard to the feelings and concerns of the patients. This issue is presented by the director, Milos Foreman, through symbolism, characterization and scenes. This, in turn, determines how the director wants us, as viewers, to feel about the issue. The …show more content…
The psychiatrists, with Ratched present, concluded: "He's not crazy, but he's dangerous." Ratched insists on committing Mac in spite of the danger, and her superiors defer. Thus we see Ratched's need to win trumps good judgment. She does win. Mac comes within seconds of crushing her windpipe. The ethical thing to do following the attack would have been to assign Mac to the disturbed ward or to have him released into the custody of the corrections dept. She doesn't. She arranges a lobotomy for Mac. That's how she wins. Ratched destroys Mac's ability to function at all; she neutralizes him; she takes away his humanity.

There are many situations in which Nurse Ratched exhibits control over her patients, by treating them as subordinates, humiliating them and de-masculinizing them without concern for their well-being. She uses control to withhold simple privileges, such as being able to watch a baseball game on the television, tub privileges and their right to have possession of cigarettes. It seems she actually derives satisfaction from this through hints of smiles, which are so seldom seen. This only brings about anger and hostility in the patients because of the way she treats them: like children instead of men. This is put best when one patient, Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick) says, “Rules? Piss on your fucking rules, Miss Ratched! ... I ain’t no little kid! When you’re gonna have cigarettes kept from me like