Home > english > Non Odiare > Bioethical Wisdom

Bioethical Wisdom

by Juan Jorge Michel Fariña with the collaboration by Eduardo Laso

In our film of the month we are going to propose a counterpoint between two cinematographic fragments. The first is the one we shared in the previous edition of this ICB film section, belonging to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The second is the spectacular beginning of the Italian film “Non Odiare” (literally, “do not hate”), by the Italian director Mauro Mancini.

As you remember, in the Grey’s Anatomy episode, a patient who has a swastika tattooed on his belly must be operated urgently but, because of his Nazi ideology, he refuses to be operate by African-American doctors. Despite this, Dr. Bailey, the hospital’s chief of surgery, decides to operate on the patient, agreeing to the patient’s demand that a white doctor be present in the operating room. The operation is a success and the patient saves his life. But because of the suture of the wound the swastika is distorted and can no longer be recognized as such.

The patient complains in front of the white doctor that Dr. Bailey did it deliberately to harm him. As a revenge. The white doctor replies that Dr. Bailey saved his life at great personal cost, prompting him to reflect on the matter.

See fragment (10 minutes)

What is the lesson of all this? What is the bioethical reading that we can make of this episode?

By modifying the design of the swastika, Dr. Bailey is offering this man an opportunity. Where there was a swastika there is now a palimpsest. That is, an image that hides another that is underneath. [1] This man can now decide what to do with that memory of his body. Whether to reveal it again or give a new meaning to his life. Especially since now that he knows that an African-American doctor saved his life.

The second scene is the beginning of the film "Do not hate". The original title in Italian is “Non odiare”, formulated in the manner of a commandment.

See fragment (5 minutes)

An Italian surgeon of Jewish origin is an accidental witness to a car accident. The driver of the car has serious injuries and has open bleeding on his leg. The doctor calls an ambulance and tries to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet. But during the procedure he sees a swastika tattooed on this man’s chest. He is shocked and hesitates for a moment, but then he loosens the tourniquet, leaving the patient to die.

This is the beginning of the film. From there this doctor must deal with the consequences of this decision. Not the legal consequences, because he remains on the scene and no one doubts his conduct. But he has to face the moral consequences of his action.

In the Grey´s Anatomy episode, Dr. Bailey produced a double move. On the one hand, she saved the patient’s life and gave him an opportunity to reflect on his Nazi ideology. On the other hand, she gave herself a chance to deal with human differences and strengthen as a doctor and as a human being.

In this second scene of the Italian film, the doctor commits a murder (aggravated by the fact that he is a doctor) and condemns himself to internal torment.

Of course, these are extreme situations, with which probably we will not have to deal in our professional lives. But what matters is the conceptual matrix of the case. When we act in a bioethical way, or when we act in the opposite direction, our act always has human and social consequences. But, this is the important thing, it also has intimate consequences that of course affect us as people and as professionals.

To conclude, bioethics is therefore a discipline that has two edges. It is a social discipline that allows us to act properly as professionals, but at the same time it is the opportunity to examine our own blind spots and do something about them. Only through this double path can we access what we call bioethical wisdom.


[1See in this regard Eduardo Laso "From the swastika to the palimpsest, towards the letter". In Ethical-clinical issues in television series, Montesano and Michel Fariña (eds). Buenos Aires: Dynamo, 2011.



This forum is moderated before publication: your contribution will only appear after being validated by an administrator.

Who are you?
Log in
Your post

To create paragraphs, just leave blank lines.

Film:Non Odiare

Original Title:Non Odiare

Director: Mauro Mancini

Year: 2020

Country: Italia

Other comments by the author:
• The Imitation Game