Team dynamics and ethics of responsibility: Whose life is it anyway? And bringing out the dead

Anne H. Jones

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses scenes from the films Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) and Bringing Out The Dead (1999). Whose Life Is It Anyway? tells the story of Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss), a successful 32-year-old sculptor who becomes paralyzed below the neck (quadriplegic) as the result of an automobile accident. Faced with the prospect of having to live in such a dependent condition, Harrison decides he would rather die and hires an attorney to help him. Bringing Out the Dead focuses on Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage), a burned-out paramedic working on the streets of New York City's Hell's Kitchen. Both films feature conflict among members of a health care team about ethical responsibilities for their patients. In Whose Life Is It Anyway?, the senior physician disregards not only the patient's wishes but also the ethical concerns of the team's junior physician. In Bringing Out the Dead, a chaotic scene in the ER demonstrates the conflict between those responsible for the individual patient and those trying to care for the many.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Picture of Health
Subtitle of host publicationMedical Ethics and the Movies
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780190267520
ISBN (Print)9780199735365
StatePublished - May 27 2015


  • Bringing out the dead
  • Ethical responsibility
  • Health care teams
  • Medical ethics
  • Patient care
  • Quadriplegic
  • Whose life is it anyway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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