The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies: Patch Adams

Time for another instalment of…

The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies!

This week’s movie: Patch Adams

Hunter “Patch” Adams is an American physician known for his alternative approach to “traditional” medicine. 

I know what you are thinking…did the Skeptical Samurai just endorse an “alternative medicine” healthcare practitioner!?  Fear not dear reader, as this is not the case.  Patch’s “alternative” approach to medicine is largely based in his use of humour and clowning in the clinical setting, as well as the concept of free + equal healthcare for all (a concept that many of us here in Canada, take for granted, as individuals living in other parts of the world, such as the USA, do not have access to free healthcare).

In 1998 a movie was made about Patch Adams (starting Robin Williams as Patch), titled…Patch Adams. 

According to Patch he had attempt to persuade the powers that be to name the film Gesundheit! (after his planned free hospital/clinic) but this idea was rejected for a variety of different reasons. 

I have read both of Patch’s books and had the absolute pleasure of meeting him in person at one of his conferences/seminars a number of years ago.  At this conference/seminar Patch discussed many different topics, including a short FAQ regarding the movie “Patch Adams”.  The information from that conference/seminar along with my own research serves as the “reality” some of the “movie fiction” put forth by the makers of the film. 

Movie: Patch, as an adult in his late 30’s to early 40’s, had a nervous breakdown and was contemplating suicide.   It was at this point that Patch checked himself into a psychiatric hospital for assessment and treatment.

Reality: Patch did in fact check himself into a psychiatric hospital, but he was actually around 17 when this happened.  At the conference/seminar I attended, Patch stated that Robin Williams was in his 40’s when he did the movie, so it was a bit difficult to reverse age Mr. Williams into a 17 year old.  Consequently, the writers of the movie simply changed the sequence of events so that Patch was in his late teens when he admitted himself to the psychiatric hospital.

Movie: Patch’s girlfriend (Corinne Fisher played by actress Monica Potter) was murdered by a psychiatric patient.

Reality: Where to start with this one!?

In reality, Corinne did not exist.  The character Corinne was loosely based on Patch’s 1st wife Lynda, who Patch did meet while he was in medical school (the scene with the room full of balloons is based on a  real life date that Patch set up for himself and Lynda), but their relationship was quite different that that portrayed in the film.    

This situation of the psychiatric patient killing Patch’s girlfriend was actually based on a real event.  The main difference was that the person killed was Patch’s MALE best friend!  Patch briefly discussed this topic at the conference/seminar I attended, and mentioned that if his friend (sadly the name of Patch’s friend escapes me) was still alive he would have gotten quite a laugh out of the fact that his character had been “adapted” to film to be Patch’s female love interest!

Movie: Patch (real name, Hunter) was given the nickname “Patch” by a fellow patient at the psychiatric hospital that he befriends after patching his faulty coffee cup. 

Reality: Patch was in fact given this nickname by a fellow patient at the psychiatric hospital that he befriended.  However, Patch has explained that the scene did not play out as it did in the movie.  Patch was given the nickname the patient that he befriended felt that Patch “patched up” the loneliness in his life, hence the name Patch.    

Movie: At the end of the movie a message is displayed across the screen that implies that Patch’s Gesundheit! Institute/Hospital has already been finished, and is currently in full swing.

Reality: In reality the hospital is still under construction!  A more accurate version of the progress of the Gesundheit! Institute is as follows (taken from Patch Adams/The Gesundheit Institute Homepage):

Phase I: A Hospital as Home • 1971–1983

The Gesundheit Institute began as a group of twenty friends, including three doctors, who moved into a six-bedroom home and called it a free hospital. The hospital was open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for all manner of medical problems from birth to death. 500-1000 patients were seen each month, with 5-50 overnight guests a night. Though staff had to work outside jobs in order to support themselves and their families, for the first 9 years none of the staff left. Over its 12-year history, 15,000 patients were seen. These years provided a “proof of concept,” affirming the direction of building a full-scale, rural hospital to serve as a place of service and a model of care.

Phase II: Building on the Land • 1981–1998

As a future hospital site, Gesundheit purchased 321 acres in Pocahontas County, West Virginia with the help of donations. Infrastructure construction included building a 3-story woodshop, a domed “Dacha” for housing up to 8 staff members, a Chrysalis-shaped classroom, a lake, gardens, and farmhouse expansion.

Phase III: The Movie and Global Outreach • 1999–2008

In 1998, Universal Studios released the movie “Patch Adams” starring Robin Williams, based on Patch Adams’s book Gesundheit. At the end of the film, Universal Studios inserted the inaccurate statement that Gesundheit had already built its free hospital. While this false claim hindered Gesundheit’s ability to fundraise for the free hospital, the movie itself raised visibility and helped launch a decade of teaching and Global Outreach.

Phases IV and V: Building the Teaching Center and Clinic • 2007–2011

Dr. Patch Adams and members of the Gesundheit Institute have lectured at medical and nursing schools in over 65 countries and on five continents, reaching approximately 150,000 attendees per year. Over 1300 people per year participate in Gesundheit’s medical student electives, volunteer programs, alternative spring breaks, health care system design intensives, humanitarian clown trips, and health justice gatherings.

In July of 2007, The Gesundheit Board launched a campaign to build the Patch Adams Teaching Center and Clinic, which will teach health care design and provide a positive global model of health care delivery on our land in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

Frequently Asked Question After Watching the Movie: How much money did Robin Williams make for his portrayal of Patch Adams, and more importantly how much did he donate to Patch and the Gesundheit! Institute?

Reality: Robin Williams made approximately 21 million dollars for his portrayal of Patch Adams. 

Regarding the question of how much money Mr. Williams donated to the Gesundheit! Institute, Patch addressed this question at the conference/seminar I attended a number of years ago.  Patch stated that Mr. Williams did not contribute a single dollar to the Gesundheit! Institute or to Patch’s cause…

And to date (to the best of my knowledge/research), Mr. Williams has still not contributed a single dollar to Patch’s cause…

For more information about Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, please visit his website:

This has been the Skeptical Samurai

Working to serve through the process of inquiry


16 Responses to “The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies: Patch Adams”

  1. how about the movie “awakenings” also with robin williams. I was always more curious how much of that was fact or fiction.
    cant believe he made 21 million off that story and didnt donate anything. talk about bah humbug

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      I have not seen that movie…so i will have to watch that one and then i will look into it for you
      And yeah…making 21 million and not donating a single dollar to the man/cause essentially responsible for the film that allowed you to make that LARGE sum of movie…
      Not cool at all!

  2. michelle edwaeds Says:

    I am glad that I found this website. However, I am somewhat confused. As I type the film has just finished being shown on Five, a channel in the UK. It was also shown earlier this month.

    At the end it states that the hospital being built is underway. This clearly differs from what you have said.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:


      thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading the blog!

      As per Patch’s website, ” At the end of the film, Universal Studios inserted the inaccurate statement that Gesundheit had already built its free hospital. While this false claim hindered Gesundheit’s ability to fundraise for the free hospital”

      I do not know what to make of your comment.
      In all honesty it has been a while since i have watched the film (i have the film on VHS, but my VCR died years ago). Personally, i remembered the statement at the end of the film indicating that Patch’s Hospital had already been built. Additionally, i remember Patch addressing this issue at this conference that i attended years back (stating that the inaccurate statement inserted by Universal Studios had hindered fundraising because people thought that his hospital had already been built). When writing this blog post, i verified this fact (the statement inserted by Universal Studios) from several different sources (including Patch’s website)…

      So i am not sure if Universal has changed the statement at the end of the movie


      if Patch is/was indicating that the statement inserted by Universal “implied” that his hospital had been completed, which (at least to him) had the same effect as stating that it was completed.

      I will have to look into this further…

      again, thanks for the comment!

  3. I get to meet him this summer!!!
    I am going to a National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, and one of the guest speakers going there is Patch Adams!!!!!
    I seriously cannot wait.
    But then again, I’ve got a long road ahead.
    $2,560.00 are not easy to get, specially when I work only part time and my family hardly earns a penny. But they’re trying to save up all they can.

    And from what I can tell, listening to Patch Adams will be a truly enlightening experience. Thanks for posting this up for me to discover.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:


      not a problem!

      Glad you enjoyed it. All the best to you, and best of luck meeting patch…a truely life changing experience…

  4. What can i say, i just finished watching the movie Patch Adams and had to log online to learn more about Patch, watching the movie aspired me even more as i am a care worker, i have always loved my job as a carer, and the passion is overwhelming, sadly i was dismissed from my employment because of who i was and still am, i am not a clever person, however, like Patch said for the Medical Profession the Commision is to CARE, unlike the home i worked in, most of these homes are money making fat cats, who would only line their pockets and Mr Williams you are no different…
    Mr Adams, i would give my right arm just to have a little of your knowledge, so that i could make a difference for the suffering people in the Nursing and Residential homes….

  5. Please notify me of follow-up comments via email.

    Thank you

  6. Robin Williams earns his money as an actor, and what he does with his money is his business. The film has given Patch Adams fame beyond belief, and the freedom to share his beliefs from the platform of celebrity.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      You are certainly correct…
      Mr. Williams is free to do what ever he deems fit with the money he makes from acting gigs.

      However i still feel it is appropriate to point out that Mr. Williams has not (to my knowledge) donated a single dollar to Patch’s cause.
      In my opinion that says a lot about Mr. Williams character.

      He is happy to make millions off of portraying Patch in the movies, but does not step up to the plate and support Patch where it counts, with money to fund his project (and without Patch and his project, there would have been no story, no movie to film, and no paycheck for Mr. Williams to collect).

  7. Good word Paul, whether Robin Williams gives any money to Adams or not does not reflect in any way on his character, but it does reflect on our character when we decide to judge the actions of others, especially when in essence we know so little about them.

    I would suggest if laughter is the best medicine then Robin Williams is a great physician.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      If you re-read the original blog post, i am simply answering a commonly asked question in regards to the movie. I do not comment one way or another regarding Mr. Williams decision not to contribute to Patch’s cause.

      However to speak to your comments, i do think that it is entirely reasonable to point this fact out. As i said to Paul, i think that it is relevant to point out the fact that Robin Williams made millions off of Patch’s story. Without Patch there would be no story and thus no movie and no money/paycheck to collect. Again i think this is entirely relevant to the discussion at hand.

      • Robin Williams did not donate to patch Adams foundation. While that is a correct statement, Williams has however contributed immensely towards st judes hospital

      • theskepticalsamurai Says:

        thanks for the comment.

        I agree. Mr Williams has been very generous over the years giving to various charities. However that does not change the fact (again, to the best of my knowledge) did not donate any of his earnings to Patch or his cause.
        My point was simply that Mr. Williams made millions from his role as Patch Adams (a role he would not have been able to portray and receive payment for it it where not for the story of Patch Adams) and not a dime of that money went to Patch or the Gesundheit Institute.

  8. Salutations…

    I pondered sending this pingback awesome feature…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: