Professional roles and communication in end-of-life care: Magnolia

David I. Rosenthal*, Joshua Hauser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the ethical issues raised by the film Magnolia (1999). The film tells the story of an elderly man, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards), who is dying of lung cancer, his young wife Linda (Julianne Moore), his home health aide Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and his estranged son Frank T. J. Mackey (Tom Cruise). The chapter focuses on a scene where Linda visits her husband's physician to discuss his care. This scene touches upon many teaching points. The physician (1) communicated bad news; (2) set goals and expectations for the patient's death; (3) explained and made a referral to hospice; (4) discussed symptom palliation and possible side effects; and (5) exposed caregiver stress. Each of these items are reviewed to discusses the ethical issues inherent, along with their portrayal in Magnolia. The chapter ends with ideas about how such a clip can be used in teaching situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Picture of Health
Subtitle of host publicationMedical Ethics and the Movies
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780190267520
ISBN (Print)9780199735365
StatePublished - May 27 2015


  • Bioethics
  • Dying
  • Magnolia
  • Medical ethics
  • Terminally ill

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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