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Books, Journals, New Media
June 28, 2000

Cancer Patient: Wit: A Play

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2000;283(24):3261. doi:10.1001/jama.283.24.3261

The play Wit is an engaging and absorbing drama about a cancer patient as she experiences established practices in medicine. The protagonist, Vivian Bearing, PhD (Judith Light), is a renowned professor of English. In her own assessment she has made major contributions to our understanding of the metaphysical poet John Donne and his Holy Sonnets. From such exalted heights she is thrust into an entirely new world of hospitals, physicians, and chemotherapy, when she is diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. Initially, her approach to her illness is rational and probing, though mixed with cynical responses to the situation that she is pushed into by current medical practices. Without much choice, she is made the initial patient in an experimental chemotherapeutic protocol. The process by which she reassesses her life and work, and critiques medicine with profound insights and cynical good humor, transforms both the patient and audience.