THE PATIENT on TRIAL (a short play)

9 December 2014

A COURTROOM, with a DOCTOR (prosecutor), JUDGE (hospital administrator), BAILIFF (orderly), and CRIMINAL (patient).

AT RISE: the DOCTOR gestures in a hostile way toward the PATIENT, in the middle of a tirade.

DOCTOR: Is this not a 35 year old obese woman presenting with the symptoms not only of elevated hormone levels and increased enzymatic liver complexes but also considerable metastatic tissue–

MIDWIFE: (jumping up) Objection! The doctor is–

JUDGE: Sustained. (to the DOCTOR) Ask the question differently, Prosecutor.

DOCTOR: (to the PATIENT) Do you deny that you acquired cancer?



MIDWIFE: Objection! The patient is clearly not well.

JUDGE: Overruled. The question was rhetorical, Midwife. (to the DOCTOR) Continue.

DOCTOR: (to the PATIENT) Well? Have you or have you not acquired cancer?


DOCTOR: (triumphantly) Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this Court will note that the patient is plainly–

MIDWIFE: Objection! He’s–

DOCTOR: (smugly, to the JUDGE) I have no more questions, your honour. (to the MIDWIFE) Your witness.

Kindly, the MIDWIFE gets close to the PATIENT.

MIDWIFE: (to the PATIENT, kindly) What do you think of this process?

DOCTOR: Objection. Calls for speculation.

MIDWIFE: Your honour, this line of questioning is necessary to establish the patient’s state of mind at the time when–

JUDGE: I’ll allow it. But proceed carefully, Midwife.

MIDWIFE: My esteemed colleague, Doctor Manhattan here, has accused you of obtaining a life-threatening disease by unlawful means. We are here to examine your guilt in that–

DOCTOR: Objection! Is the defence questioning the patient or grandstanding?

JUDGE: Do you have a question in there somewhere, Midwife?

MIDWIFE: (to the PATIENT) What do you think of this process?




MIDWIFE: (to the JUDGE) Permission to treat the witness as hostile.

DOCTOR: Objection. It’s his witness.

JUDGE: I don’t need you to tell me how to interpret the law, Doctor. (to the MIDWIFE) Proceed as you wish, Midwife.

MIDWIFE: (to the PATIENT, who remains silent after each question) Isn’t it true that many people live in the area where you acquired cancer? … And that many, most in fact, did not become afflicted as you have? … (palpates the PATIENT)

DOCTOR: Objection. He’s manipulating the witness.

MIDWIFE: Palpating, your honour, palpating. A perfectly normal legal procedure.

JUDGE: (to the DOCTOR) Overruled.

DOCTOR: But he’s untrained, unqualified, I mean.

JUDGE: (sharply) I’m allowing it. (to the MIDWIFE) But get on with it, Midwife. This Court generously suffers your presence. Don’t waste our time.

MIDWIFE: (to the PATIENT) How can you claim to be innocent before this court, when you became sick but others didn’t? … Whose fault is that? … Well? … Who bears the guilt for that? … You’re a sick person. And my esteemed colleague over there makes a living off people like you.

DOCTOR: Objection! Slander.

MIDWIFE: The best defence against slander is the truth.

JUDGE: That’s true. (to the DOCTOR) Overruled.

MIDWIFE: (to the PATIENT) It’s criminal that you impose on society this way. What do you have to say for yourself?


MIDWIFE: (sarcastically) Oh, so it’s society that made you sick, eh?


MIDWIFE: We should put the doctor on trial? (indicating the JUDGE) And the hospitals and administrators? You had no say in this disaster whatsoever?


MIDWIFE: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I apologize in advance for courtroom dramatics, but if I might ask the patient to stand.

JUDGE: Where are you going with this?

MIDWIFE: It bears on the case, your honour.

JUDGE: (to the DOCTOR) You have no objections? (the DOCTOR shakes his head) My hands are tied then. I have no choice then but to allow it. (to the PATIENT) The orderly will order the patient stand.

The PATIENT does. She’s obviously pregnant.

MIDWIFE: I ask the Court to note. It’s not cancer. She’s pregnant.

DOCTOR: (jumping up) What the blazes? This is–

JUDGE: Order! Order! I prescribe order!

MIDWIFE: There’s been a misdiagnosis.

DOCTOR: This should have come out in discovery.

MIDWIFE: More like, before then.

JUDGE: You’ve been having us on this whole time, Midwife.

MIDWIFE: And I apologise, your honour. But my office has an only limited capacity to act in these matters. All the same, we move for summary dismissal of all charges. This woman is no criminal.

JUDGE: (to the DOCTOR) Cross?

DOCTOR: Yes, very.

JUDGE: Cross-examine. Do you wish to?

DOCTOR: Rather, I’d like the court to note that my diagnosis—

MIDWIFE: Objection!

JUDGE: Sustained. (banging his gavel) This case is dismissed.



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