‘JFK: What the Doctors Saw’ Review: A Clinical Take

‘JFK: What the Doctors Saw’ Review: A Clinical Take

Amid a climate of invigorated interest in the assassination of John F. Kennedy — stoked by the media capitalizing on the 60th anniversary of his death to reignite familiar debates — Barbara Shearer’s “JFK: What the Doctors Saw” contributes some clarity to the conspiratorial noise by centering on a tiny piece of the puzzle: the professional opinions of the physicians present in the president’s Parkland Memorial Hospital emergency room.

While some documentaries feel like rundowns of a Wikipedia page, “What the Doctors Saw” (streaming on Paramount+) more closely resembles a Q. and A. session with Siri. What did the staff observe? An entrance wound on Kennedy’s throat. What does that suggest? A bullet entered from the front. Why is that significant? It contradicts the findings of the Warren Commission.

I’m willing to bet that viewers drawn to this documentary will have a basic knowledge of the history. It is smart, then, that this film so clearly defines its scope. Rather than dwell on the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the documentary dedicates its running time to medical analyses, unpacking the inconsistencies between injuries that doctors observed in Dallas and the autopsy report conducted in Bethesda.

This approach also has its drawbacks. The recollections of those who treated Kennedy in Trauma Room 1 at Parkland are remarkably consistent, which is another way of saying that much of this documentary is remarkably repetitive. You will finish the film agreeing that what the doctors saw is crucial. But what it all means for America’s most enduring mystery is no less clear.

JFK: What the Doctors Saw
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.

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