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Patch Adams

By Bill Guggenheim
The ADC Project

The movie "Patch Adams" is based upon the book, "Gesundheit: Good Heath Is a Laughing Matter," which is about the life of an actual doctor named Hunter "Patch" Adams. In one brief, yet powerful scene it portrays a symbolic after-death communication (ADC) experience.

Patch's fellow medical student and girlfriend, Carin, is shot and killed by a psychiatric patient she is helping, and her patient then commits suicide. Patch is devastated when he attends Carin's funeral. He is about to abandon his dreams and his goals completely, and he plans to withdraw from medical school at once.

First he returns to a beautiful vista in the mountains, where he had joyously taken Carin one day, to show her the acreage he wanted to buy to build his medical facility on. But this time he is in severe emotional pain as he expresses his greatest despair and his deepest doubts about God and his purpose in life. He bitterly challenges God and demands an answer to his profound questions.

Exactly at that moment, a magnificent monarch butterfly alights on his carryall case, and then it flies to him and lands on his body -- on his chest, over his heart. A short while later, it spirals upwards, into the sky, leaving Patch with a huge smile on his face and filled with renewed hope.

Although no words are used, Patch obviously recognizes the symbolism of the butterfly, and he intuitively knows it is a sign from Carin and from God. Much of his grief is healed during this single ADC, and he soon returns to medical school to resume his compassionate ministry as a physician to the poor.

Presumably this is a factual incident that occurred in the life of the real Hunter "Patch" Adams, M.D. as he attended medical school at the University of Virginia during the late '60s and early '70s.

For more information about this beautiful, sensitive film, see:

This article was published by The ADC Project on January 3, 1999 and was written by Bill Guggenheim.

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