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  • In this alternately heartbreaking and uplifting drama inspired by actual events, a small town Midwest family discovers that their youngest son suffers from epilepsy. Left without hope after their insurance runs out, the mother presses on, studies everything she can find out about the illness, and, against the wishes of her local doctor, takes her son to Baltimore for treatment with the controversial ketogenetic diet.

    The title of this movie-made-for-television, First Do No Harm, comes from the Hippocratic oath which doctors take as part of their vocation.

    However, in many cases physicians are loath to recommend procedures not because they do anyone harm but because their efficacy is not supported by scientific research. This is the case when four-year-old Robbie (Seth Adkins) is diagnosed as having a type of epilepsy for which the cause is unknown. His parents, Lori (Meryl Streep) and Dave (Fred Ward), agree to a series of excruciating drug treatments which only seem to worsen his condition. Their situation becomes more complicated when they learn that their health insurance policy has lapsed.

    Then Lori discovers a regimen called the Ketogenic Diet; one-third of the epileptic children on this diet have experienced no additional seizures. Robbie's parents are furious with his doctor (Allison Janney) for not telling them about this treatment and then refusing to facilitate their trying it. Instead, she recommends brain surgery for the boy.

    The finale of the drama demonstrates the distance some families have to go to take control of the health and welfare of their loved ones. First Do No Harm presents a blistering attack on the rigidity and insensitivity of the medical establishment.

    Outstanding performances from both Meryl Streep and child sensation, Seth Adkins. Definitely a 'must-watch!!'
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I may not be a person living with Epilepsy, but I live with someone who has it. This movie is a moving portrayal of a family coping with a son with seizures he cannot control and the medical establishment that won't do what's needed to help their son so the mother does whatever she can to help her son overcome the disorder that has taken over his life by trying to get him into a program called the Ketogenic Diet and doing whatever is necessary to help her son. The film also shows how the family copes with their family members epilepsy. Realistic portrayal of a seizure which will make you cry. I know it did for me. I recommend this movie for people with epilepsy and those without so they can see how epilepsy and seizures can take control of ones life.
  • Meryl Streep took a break from feature films for a rare TV movie role, while Jim (Airplane!) Abrahams took a break from wacky comedies, to tell this extraordinary story of a family that must take its health care into its own hands when the medical complex is failing them - after losing almost everything. Their son seems to have a variety of epilepsy that's tragically difficult to diagnose and treat.

    Many have lost family members because they didn't have the strength and courage to challenge their doctors' biases before it was too late. So this true story is an important vaccine for people who need to take back responsibility for their families' health. It's a stark contrast and partial antidote to thousands of made-up movie and TV medical stories.

    Streep, Fred Ward and the rest of the cast are superb. Allison Janney is perfectly cast as the doctor, because in real life the 'bad guys' are often smart, attractive, and certain they're doing the right thing.
  • Initially when I saw this movie on Amazon I was skeptical of buying it, I thought it would be that sort of a lame family struggle film, however this is not the case.

    When her son is diagnosed with epilepsy, Lori Reimuller (Meryl Streep), tries to deal with it, taking every measure that she can. After researching epilepsy she discovers the ketogenic diet, a miracle cure? or a unfounded treatment that is a pipe dream? This is a terrific film with wonderful performances from all, I would recommend this film to anyone who has or knows of someone with epilepsy. I myself had it (although this was a mild form that I grew out of). I was never aware of the ketogenic diet.

    While I could go on about this film more, simply put it was a must see for everybody, not just for the ketogenic diet but also for awareness of epilepsy in general.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I really enjoy watching Meryl Streep in everyone of her movies. She is by far a very talented actress and one that only comes around once in a generation. This movie is so moving. Seth Adkins, who plays the ill child, is also very talented. He is shockingly believable as a child with epilepsy, especially for a kid his age. This movie will definitely make you think twice about how well you have it. You will fall in love with the character of Robby and feel the pain his family has to go through. During the hardships they face. Everyone who watches this movie will most likely think twice about epilepsy and not think of it as a small disease. I had know idea that it was so serious or that there was a cure to stop the ceasars.
  • The movie moved and touched my soul to see a youth being treated and healed in a good way from epilepsy. I have had seizures since the age of 2 from being hit by a car and now I'm 25. I am currently on medication since I was 18 and only had one seizure due to stopping my medication once, otherwise medication is controlling them but not getting totally rid of the seizures. My parents never treated me in any kind of way for my condition, they just let me have seizures. I feel so scared and helpless that the diet may not work for me after all these years. Wish I had the help and support, I just leave it all up to God.

    God Bless

    Jacklyn Wells
  • Beautifully acted by Meryl Streep and the rest of the cast, this film is based on a true story of a mother who defied the medical profession to get her son on the ketogenic diet at Johns Hopkins.

    Due to the tremendous lobbying power of the AMA in this country, alternative treatments are not recognized here the way they are in Europe and in other countries. Yet people often have to be subjected to harmful, and often unhelpful medications. One hears a lot about animal experimentation - in the end, the guinea pig is always the human patient, as doctors "try out" drug cocktails and new drugs on patients who suffer horrible side effects from them, as did the child in this film.

    I won't give away the twist at the end of the film, but watch it clear to the end and you'll get a marvelous surprise.
  • srmccarthy1 February 2003
    I can't count how many times I have watched this movie! I never get tired of it! The acting is so good it's easy to become emotionally involved. Not to mention the fact that it's based on actual events! Observe the wonderful performance by Seth Adkins! If you like him in this, you HAVE to check out "When Andrew Came Home"!
  • Meryl Streep is a mother of three children. When Her Youngest child(Fred Ward) is struck with epilepsy and is near his death. The hospital he is in does nothing but gives him drugs and they just do not work. The mum does some research and finds a diet for epilepsy and he does it.

    This film is sad but don't give up when your watching it because it has the happiest ending a film could have. Meryl streep is exceptional and it is probably her best film. I would recommend it to people who like Drama films or know someone with epilepsy.

    All I can say is you MUST watch this film and it is really really good.
  • turbomr226 March 1999
    The storyline is real, the events everyone can probably relate to, and the acting was incredible! Seth Adkins is a trully talented moppet for his age! One can really feel the frustration of money and finantial discouragement between the parents. Many great moments, a must see!
  • Was there ever any reaction from the medical establishment re: this outstanding movie - scarier than a horror movie because it is true, and its story is frightening.

    As a senior citizen living on pills and trusting in a variety of doctors, I realize the medical establishment is reluctant to break away from what they feel is the tried and true.

    This movie shows it could, and in this case, should be done. The story is told in a straightforward manner and, of course, is helped by one of the generation's greatest actresses, Meryl Streep.. But it is little Seth who walks away with acting honors. Outstanding. Glad to see he is having a successful career. Praise also to Fred Ward and to all in the cast including the non-professionals cured as was the film's youngster. This is an outstanding, must-see movie.
  • The main and actually the only complaint I have about this film is, that it falls prey to the typical TV movie set up, which means that this truth inspired story is somewhat over dramatized. Apart from that though, there is nothing much I have to complain about. The performances are safe and sound and so is the directing. I will not give away too much here, but this film is actually quite thought provoking, even in the beginning, starting with the oath of Hippocrates that each doctor is destined to take before being set free on the general public. Note the part where the oath contains the subjectivity of the doctor in stating that the doctor should do the things he deems necessary, right or something of the like. This part of the oath of Hippocrates sets the tone for the rest of the movie, in which doctor's seem to do what they seem is best, but not try everything there is, because it is supposedly not to be scientifically proven. While watching this film one actually gets the impression that our dear doctors think that something is scientific only when it is either scientifically manufactured (drugs) or when there are active reconstructions made on the human body. The fact that other forms of treatment (like acupuncture, diet, change of environment) could actually do something about a disease is out of these scholars reach and most of them seem to make the mistake of looking at diseases through the view of their studies and totally neglecting the more logical holistic view on illnesses. This film shows us that there are things that can go wrong when you go to the doctors, that they too are only humans and its advice is: smarten up. If you're seriously ill, read books, educate yourself and make sure that everything there is has been tried, because even doctor's can make mistakes.

    7 out of 10
  • Although this film is a bit heavy-handed in its efforts to promote the Ketogenic diet as an alternative treatment for epilepsy, it does address many of the issues that face families when a member is diagnosed with serious illness. In addition, Seth Adkins (who has since portrayed Pinocchio in the TV movie "Geppeto") does an absolutely amazing job of portraying several different types of seizure, a feat which would be remarkable even for an adult. A very watchable flick.
  • Perhaps the best combination of writing, acting, directing and photography I have seen in some time. A tough film to watch as it embodies truly wrenching emotion presented in a very real way. One of the best uses of the film medium to inform, entertain, and make a statement about society. Very worth seeing.
  • This was a pleasant surprise from Jim Abrahams, better known for his work on the Zucker Brothers' movies (Airplane!, The Naked Gun). The point is, however, that this movie is probably a good example of cinematic drama if I've ever seen it. 4*s.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    as this movie starts,a voice comes on as wells the words,saying that although his story is fictionalized,it is inspired by a true story.it's all bout how the medical community is unwilling to think outside the box when it comes to alternative treatments for sick people,that they don't approve of. one family learns this the hard way,when their young son is struck ill,and despite not getting better in hospital,the doctors want to continue to try treatments that don't work.this movie is heart wrenching at times,and frustrating.Meryl Streep and Fred Ward star as the parents who are running out of options for their son and are at their wits end.Streep and Ward both are great here.Allison Janney(The West Wing)also puts in a good performance. too be fair,not everyone in the medical establishment is unwilling to think out of the box,and the movie shows this as well.for me,First do no Harm is a 7/10
  • A little too dramatize on the effects on ketogenic diet... and perhaps a little too much spite on allopathic medicine...

    After all, we still need much double blind studies to prove the efficacy on many of our new drugs and to regulate what we have in the market.

    But it might have been better if the film had been more well-rounded and depicts a little more on the conflicts and emotions on BOTH sides and not lean too much on one. That way it might have been a more thought-provoking movie.

    Otherwise, we have some good acting, especially the leading roles. Good storyline. If you like this, you may want to check out the book as well.
  • If you found Lorenzo's Oil upsetting, don't bother renting the ABC television movie ...First Do No Harm. It's not more upsetting, by any means, but it's the same genre and why put yourself through that? Not many people can stomach movies about very sick children and their persevering parents, but if you are one of those people, you'll get to see Meryl Streep and Fred Ward struggling to raise their young epileptic son, Seth Adkins.

    I'll never understand why parents give their consent to let their young children act in upsetting films. Poor Seth had to pretend to have seizure after seizure, and be examined by faux doctors, and scream his head off for the pain-all to get his big break in his film debut. I can't imagine the psychological damages he received from acting in this movie was really worth it. Be that as it may, the adults in the movie did understand what they were signing up for, and every parent will see their struggle, worry, and despair as the doctors fail to help their son get better.

    Similar to Lorenzo's Oil, the parents have to take measures into their own hands in this movie. Dr. Allison Janney is strictly by-the-books, and when Meryl does her research and wants to try a new ketogenic diet, she doesn't approve. This is a really heavy movie that will press on some hot-button issues. It doesn't exactly tackle the medical establishment as a villain, but it certainly takes the stance that drugs aren't as helpful as doctors would like you to think. Know what you're getting into with this drama: good acting, lots of suffering, and a very human story of coloring outside the lines when all else fails.

    Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to upsetting scenes involving a child, I wouldn't let my kids watch it.
  • This movie was heart wrenching. It showed a mother's determination to try the least harmful treatment for her son, before using a more common, but dangerous method.

    Amazing movie!
  • As this film opens, the Reimullers of Kansas City, Dave, Lori and their three children, seem like the perfect all-American family happy, normal and financially comfortable, if not exactly rich. And then their youngest son, Robbie, is diagnosed with severe epilepsy. At this point you just know that the film is going to turn into one of those disease- of-the-month television films. ("Last month anorexia, this month epilepsy, next month bipolar disorder…….")

    Or is it? Most disease-of-the-month TV movies do not, after all, feature major Hollywood stars like Meryl Streep. Nor are they generally directed by big-name Hollywood directors, especially when those directors are, like Jim Abrahams, best known for comedies. "Airplane!", "Naked Gun", Top Secret!" etc).

    As the film progresses, we realise that it was made with a particular agenda in mind. Robbie is treated with various anticonvulsant drugs, but none are effective in controlling his epileptic seizures and some have serious side effects. The family nearly bankrupt themselves in trying to pay for his treatment. Eventually Dr Abbasac, the doctor in charge of Robbie's care, asks his parents to consider surgery. Lori, however, sees surgery as a dangerous last resort and begins her own research to find out if anything else can be done for her son. She discovers that there are two approaches to treating childhood epilepsy. One is to treat the disease by means of drugs and surgery, and this is the method favoured by Dr. Abbasac. The other is to treat it by means of a special diet, but Dr Abbasac regards this method as being an unproven theory based upon dubious science and refuses to consider it for Robbie.

    The purpose of the film is, essentially, to make propaganda for the ketogenic diet approach. Apparently Abrahams' own son Charlie is an epileptic who was successfully treated by this method, and Charlie has a brief cameo in the film, as do several adults who were treated with the diet as children and Millicent Kelly a dietician who has helped run the ketogenic diet programme at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore since the 1940s. The advocates of conventional medicine are shown in a bad light, especially Dr Abbasac who is portrayed as unsympathetic, blinkered and intolerant; she does everything in her power to dissuade the Reimullers from trying the diet and even tries to physically prevent them from travelling to Baltimore.

    Meryl Streep is by far the best-known actor in this film, but I must say that this is not really one of her best performances. The late nineties, in fact, have always seemed to me to be something of a fallow period in her career, with no really great films between "The Bridges of Madison County" in 1995 and "The Hours" in 2002. (She seems to have recovered in the present century, with excellent performances in the likes of "Rendition", "The Devil Wears Prada", "Doubt" and "The Iron Lady"). Here, as the distraught mother Lori she comes across as too hyper- active, her rapid-fire speech and hand gestures seeming to indicate agitation rather than genuine grief or concern

    I have no medical qualifications and therefore am not in a position to comment on the advantages or disadvantages of the two contrasting approaches to controlling epilepsy. I suspect, moreover, that most viewers of this film will be in a similar position. It seemed to me that Abraham was using the film to make criticisms of the medical profession, or at least of elements within the medical profession, the merits of which the average viewer would not be qualified to judge, and to advance arguments more suited to the pages of a medical journal than to the television screen. I can envisage a good film being made about some of the scientific controversies of the past, such as the battles over evolution in Darwin's day, but ongoing medical and scientific debates do not really strike me as suitable material for turning into films. 4/10
  • This film calls for reflection. It is based on a true story and some of the actors who participate in it are epileptics who have had a better life thanks to the ketogenic diet. If the film did not have the collaboration of the great Meryl Streep, it would have gone unnoticed. She is largely the movie, playing a mother who goes above and beyond to save her son. It is a subject many times treated in the cinema, but it is worth seeing the tape to reflect on our health and in the hands of whoever left it.
  • marcoran3 February 2019
    A really inspired movie! I have epilepsy atm great movie for that and it talks about the ketogenic regime
  • This is one of those feel-good TV dramas that will probably tug at your heart strings. It stars Meryl Streep as Lori Reimuller, whose young son Robbie (Seth Atkins) is being treated at a hospital for epilepsy. But, not satisfied with the care his doctor is giving Robbie, Lori pursues her own form of treatment for her son, attempting an alternative treatment called the Ketogenic Diet.

    This movie generated some emotion as I watch Lori care for her son. It reminds me of the hurdles and obstacles a family goes through in life at times and how a parent's love for his/her child is unconditional. The acting by the cast of characters really delivered in making this movie engaging.

    I am not a real hardcore fan of drama, as the plots really go at a slow pace at times, as evident somewhat in this movie. However, the heart-warming and courageous scenes of Lori dealing with the medical system while trying to address family issues made it an intriguing movie overall.

    Grade B+
  • mbennett-1821 October 2006
    This movie was really bad.

    Meryl Streep walked through her lines. It is the only POOR performance I have ever seen her give. She was forgettable.

    Other characters were worse. Everyone except the small boy was pitiful. He did the best job of anyone, including Streep.

    When I rented this movie, I did not know it was made for TV. After I watched it, I could easily tell. There was essentially no character development and parts were at best "walk-throughs". What a pity to waste all the actors' and actresses' time on such folly. I would absolutely NOT watch this again, nor would I recommend it to anyone but a sworn enemy.

    I have seen worse movies, but not many.