The Physician (2013)
The plot is settled in 11th-century England, as much knowledge was lost in the Dark Ages, and the Church fought against black magic. The medicine of the Middle Ages had lost the knowledge of the Greek physicians like Hippocrates and Roman physicians such as Galen until taught later in schools such as the School of Salerno. Traveling Barber cared for the ordinary population.
Robert Cole has an extraordinary gift: he can sense when someone left untreated has a terminal illness. This he noticed for the first time when he feels as a little boy that his sick mother, will die of appendicitis. The young orphan, joins a moving Barber, who teaches him the basics of medieval medicine with services such as cupping therapy, bloodletting, and dental extraction. Even as an apprentice Rob recognizes the limitations of these simple practices. When the Barber suffers from a cataract, Rob consults a real Medicus for him. This Jewish doctor heals the Barber completely. He learns a little bit of Jewish culture. He speaks with two children, Jesse and Benjamin. There, Rob sees for the first time a world map, and learns of the famous Ibn Sina, who teaches medicine in distant Persia. So he decides to train there to become a physician. The medicine is far ahead in what was then Persia than in Europe. The Byzantine medicine (an evolution of ancient Greek medicine) by Nestorians to the Academy of Gondishapur and Baghdad by translations symbiosis with ancient Iranian medicine. The doctor, scientist and philosopher Ibn Sina teaches in Isfahan, the most important school for aspiring practitioners in the world at that time. There, in the caliphate, however, Christians are no longer allowed, but Jews are still tolerated.
Upon arriving in Egypt Rob, even though he is a baptized Christian, performs a circumcision on himself and calls himself Jesse Ben Benjamin. In a caravan he comes to know Rebecca who reads to him from a book about Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor. He experiences a desert storm and almost dies. He suffers a concussion when he asks for admission to the school of Ibn Sina, by the Guardian, so that he is taken as a patient.
In Bimaristan, he learns from Ibn Sina the basics of scientific medicine as well as the philosophy of Aristotle. So Rob learns to perform a medical history and medical examination including pulse diagnosis, the leech treatment, the use of opium, including the analgesic effect, and minor surgical procedures. When a plague breaks out in the city and thousands die, the doctors remain at the patients’ side. With the discovery of basic hygienic principles the plague is overcome. Rob suggests that oriental rat fleas may be the carriers of the Black Death, and with rat poison the pest may be suppressed. The passion for Rebecca flares up again, as Rob takes care for the abandoned, sick of the plague, and nurses her healthy. There is extramarital sex between Rob and Rebecca that results in pregnancy. Adultery leads to the preparation of a stoning. Rob learns from the Shah on the burden of ruling.
The Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions are mainly used in the evaluation of medical science. A conflict is sparked by the ethical assessment of the autopsy on the human body. As a Zoroastrian dies of appendicitis, Rob learns from him that he does not require the dead body in his religion. With him, Rob secretly performs an autopsy to deepen his knowledge of anatomy and to discover the inflamed vermiform appendix. Later, he is able to perform an appendectomy under anesthesia on the Shah.
Isfahan is betrayed by mullahs to the Seljuks to drive the Jews and secular blasphemers like Ibn Sina out of town or kill them. After a crowd destroyed the hospital and killed the employees, Ibn Sina commits suicide. Shortly before his death, Ibn Sina transfers his medical writings to Rob Cole in the burning library. Rob Cole may call himself ‘Hakim,’ an honorary medical title , which is given to him by the medical grandmaster.
After the death of Ibn Sina Rob Cole returns with Rebecca as his wife back to London, to found a hospital. The old Barber, Cole’s first teacher, learns from a little boy by the return of his former pupil and of its fame.