“…She’s somethin’ of a cunt, ain’t she Doc?” Although Milos Foreman’s character, Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), put his opinion of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in the most vulgar of terms, he was not so far from the truth. In the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Nurse Ratched’s treatment and care of the patients was unethical when compared to the standards one would expect of a health care administrator. She used control over her patients to ensure order, without regard to the feelings and concerns of the patients. This issue is presented by the director, Milos Foreman, through symbolism, characterization and scenes. This, in turn, determines how the director wants us, as viewers, to feel about the issue. The
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A nurse has a responsibility to reduce the amount of stress on a patient in mental facilities, not cause it. Electroshock therapy and pre-frontal lobotomy procedures are also used as a form of control in the film. These should be used in extreme cases where it is necessary or beneficial to the patient or not used at all. In any circumstance though, it should definitely not be used as punishment or as a solution to subdue a problem patient in order to control them. This strays from the moral conduct expected of hospital personnel. One of the most disturbing scenes in the movie is when a patient, Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), is humiliated by the authoritarian, manipulative, patronizing, and mind games player Nurse Ratched in front all the other patients.
Ratched's treatment of Billy Bibbit demonstrates her lack of ethics and her spite. After Billy loses his virginity with the prostitute Mac sneaks into the hospital, Ratched's demeanor is not concerned but vengeful. She threatens to tell his mother of his sexual encounter he had in the hospital the previous night. In this way, he is treated like a child and not respected of his right as an adult to withhold personal information from others. He is made to feel so ashamed of what he had done:
“Billy: I-I can explain everything....
Nurse Ratched: Please do Billy, explain everything
(Billy glances back at the others and beams from their approval)
Nurse Ratched: Aren't you ashamed?