The movie “Awakenings” is based on a factual memoir also titled “Awakenings” written by Oliver Sacks, MD. The movie tells the story of a neurologist, Dr. Sayer hired by a hospital for the chronically ill, whom is caring for a group of survivors of an endemic of encephalitis lethargica that broke out in the twenties. These patients have all progressively reduced to a catatonic or vegetative-Parkinsonian state and have been in this semi-conscious state for decades.
Dr. Sayer uses a patient named Leonard Lowe to test a new experimental Parkinson’s drug called
Levo-dopa, to “awaken” him and eventually all the other patients on this ward. The medical ethical issue of this story is related directly to the administration of an experimental drug in which little is know about it’s effects and the hasty manner in which the dosages were chosen.
The story takes place in New York, 1969 where Dr. Sayer is a newly hired doctor at the
Bainbridge Hospital for the chronically ill. He was previously a research doctor since his graduation from college. It was made clear at the beginning of the story that Dr. Sayer struggles with human interaction and is reluctant to take the position at the hospital once he realizes he will be interacting directly with patients. As Dr. Sayer begins to settle into his new environment, he begins to discover a small group of patients in a semi-conscious statue-like state that have a common aspect of their medical history; that being, they all survived encephalitis lethargica years before their deterioration. As Dr. Sayer continues to research the symptoms associated with this state his patients have been living in, he concludes that the experimental drug L-Dopa for
Parkinson’s patients could prove to be effective with his patients. The vegetative state in which all these patients are in, greatly hinders the possibility of developing a physician-patient relationship and prevents further attainment of a patient history, as