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The Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw
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The Doctor's Dilemma

by George Bernard Shaw

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I listened to this full cast audiobook while skimming/reading the play in my Kindle omnibus "The Plays of Shaw".

I realized fairly quickly after starting this play that I had seen a film version of it with Leslie Caron. While I enjoyed listening to the play, I would recommend the 1958 movie over this audiobook to anyone interested in it. The pace of the audiobook (too slow) and the necessary (but not always complete) stage directions interrupting the flow both detracted from my enjoyment.

Regarding the plot: Shaw has some funny scenes in Act 1 satirizing the successful "Harley Street" physician (Harley Street is a street in London that was well-known for being the location of society doctors; it is similar to the term "Fleet Street" meaning the location of publishers of newspapers). I was surprised by how apt some of the satire still is over 100 years later!

The main dilemma is one of morality: is it ethical or right to deny possibly life-saving treatment to someone who is a cad? If the availability of treatment is limited, should the moral and potential future usefulness of the patient be a consideration? Shaw also uses Dubedat to challenge the views of the doctors (and audience) as to the relative importance of artistic genius compared to obeying society's rules. Even the ending raises some interesting questions: Dr. Ridgeon believes that he has saved Jennifer Dubedat unhappiness and pain by preventing her from finding out what a bounder Dubedat really was and letting her go through life with her idealized view of him intact. Regardless of the moral issue of whether he should be making such a decision in the first place, is he right? Perhaps she wouldn't have cared! Her sense of right and wrong are not necessarily the same as Ridgeon's. To add to the "dilemma", the good but poor doctor who got the treatment denied to Dubedat has become something of a know-it-all, no longer the nice man he was before. So doubt is thrown on using character as a guide to who deserves treatment from both sides. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jul 18, 2015 |
A small bit of historical memorabilia, interesting for the moralizing nature of the Victorian values, and the author's attempt to speak out against them; while his intent is glaringly obvious, it is a message not likely to be picked up by audiences today, who will probably see the character bearing Shaw's message as the cad that the other characters view him, thereby diluting the anti-moralizing message. The ethical dilemma suffered by the doctor is too obvious, the answer too plain, in the days of modern ethics. And few will find the underlying message palatable: that the artist is producing something of value, while the doctor is a wastrel that produces nothing anyone wants. Shaw cannot be faulted for failing to foresee that medicine in the future would become much more respected as it progressed suddenly from the rather stagnant position it had been in for centuries when Shaw was writing. The ethical issues of medicine are still there, but they have shifted; this play could be a good conversation starter. ( )
  Devil_llama | Dec 22, 2013 |
The preface, written in 1906 is as relevant today.
  mdstarr | Sep 11, 2011 |
The preface, written in 1906 is as relevant today.
  muir | Dec 7, 2007 |
This edition of ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma: A tragedy’ comprises of a preface, which consists of a rather long commentary on the behaviour and scandal of doctors during the turn of the twentieth century, and a play, which typifies Bernard Shaw’s wit and skill as satirist.

The criticisms in the preface may not seem to be pertinent to modern medicine, however, I did feel that they were relevant in the wider debate surrounding alternative medicines such as homeopathy today. “And every hypochondriacal rich lady or gentleman that can be persuaded that he or she is a lifelong invalid means anything from fifty to five hundred pounds a year to the doctor.” The role of the private practitioner as a trusted authority is compromised by the financial incentives involved by keeping patients ill for longer.

In the play, the ‘dilemma’ faced by Sir Colenso Ridgeon (who is the exceptional case of a doctor who does make ‘a very notable contribution to science’) is whether to treat a young, morally bankrupt but incredibly talented artist or to treat a poor, honest but slightly dull, doctor friend of his. The plot is complicated by the fact that Ridgeon is in love with the artist’s doting wife.

I found that the play was hugely enjoyable and made me laugh out loud in many places, which was more than enough compensation for the fact that none of the characters were all that likeable. ( )
1 vote ErasmusBee | Sep 12, 2007 |
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All professions are conspiracies against the laity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140450270, Paperback)

This is Shaw's humorous satire of the medical profession.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The blowhards, the know-it-alls, the scrupulous, and the impecunious are all targets for Shaw's incisive wit in his classic satire of the medical profession. A well-respected physician is forced to choose whom he shall save: a bumbling friend or the ne'er-do-well husband of the woman he loves. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jane Carr, Gregory Cooke, Kenneth Danziger, Roy Dotrice, Martin Jarvis, Jennifer Dundas Lowe, Simon Templeman, Douglas Weston and Paxton Whitehead.… (more)

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