How to make medical decisions based on Bollywood movies

A few days ago, I wrote a short medical article on how Bollywood was an excellent source of information on how to treat bullet wounds. Based on the excellent feedback I received, I decided to search for a suitable venue for publication in a scholarly medical journal. Physicians and life scientists generally use PubMed, a comprehensive database provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In searching the database, I came across a medical article published in the March 2010 issue of The Journal of ECT entitled  “The depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in Hindi cinema.” You probably didn’t know this, but  electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is  popularly referred to as “shock therapy” in Bollywood movies.

Who knew?

The authors of the medical research article, all Indian physicians, felt that Hindi movies were a source of misinformation on shock therapy. To remedy the injustice, they first identified 13 Hindi movies between 1967 and 2008 “based on inquiries with e-communities, video libraries, and other sources.” These 13 movies were then listed in Table 1 of the research paper. The movies identified in this research were Jewel Thief, Raat aur Din, Khamoshi, Yarana, Arth, Coolie, Damini, Raja, Dastak, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Kyon Ki, Woh Lamhe, and Manthan Ek Kashmakash (starring the other Sanjay Kumar and Anisha Babi if you insist on knowing).

The authors state that “between 1967 and 2008, 13 Hindi movies contained referrals to or depictions of ECT.” I hope they had good reasons for excluding Pagla Kahin Ka, Khilona, and Dhara , all of which that have explicit referrals to ECT within that time-frame.

Shockingly, the authors found inaccuracies in the depiction of ECT in Hindi movies. Who would have thought?

The authors also provide a thorough discussion of the implications of these inaccuracies. Two points are worth quoting from the abstract of the medical article.

“Although the inaccuracies are a cause for concern, we suggest that because Hindi cinema is generally hyperbolic, the public may be willing to distinguish real life from reel life when facing clinical decisions about ECT.”

Hindi cinema, generally hyperbolic? Although I probably couldn’t recognize a hyperbole if it burst out in song-and-dance wearing a tomato red chiffon sari, it is possible that the authors’ comment might be a slight understatement.

“Nevertheless, considering the potential for harm in the dissemination of misinformation, filmmakers should exhibit a greater sense of ethics when creating impressions that might adversely influence health.”

Shame on you Hindi filmmakers for not having any ethics! Priyadarshan, I know you probably haven’t had time recently to browse through issues of The Journal of ECT, but I really must protest. This sort of ignorance on medical matters clearly will not do!

The public deserves better.

More Bollywood Science here.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the position of my current or former employers. I am not a physician and have no knowledge of ECT so my comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. Fair-use rationale of images: All images are low-resolution and used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free equivalent is not available. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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10 thoughts on “How to make medical decisions based on Bollywood movies

  1. hahaa….really a novel way to write a post on this subject. I agree with you….many people do get swayed by things shown in Movies. Sometimes the lines between fact and fiction is hard for many people to see.

  2. Thanks to everyone.

    @Lazy Pineapple, perhaps there are some who may be swayed by Bollywood. But do you really think this is something that physicians should be concerned about? 😉

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