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Oxygen Themes

Balancing the Personal and the Professional

When Oxygen begins, Marie has prioritized her professional duties almost entirely over her personal relationships. Marie grew up in Texas but now lives in Seattle. Her sister has three children, but Marie only has time to take calls from her adolescent niece. She has not seen her ailing father in three years; they fell out during her adolescence. Marie has few clothes beyond her scrubs that she wears to and from work. When she finishes her shift, she rarely has time to do anything other than return home to catch up on her sleep. Marie’s professional life has overwhelmed her, though anyone who knows her would think her content, if busy. When Jolene Jenson dies while in Marie’s care, Marie’s life begins to fall apart.

Marie at first tries to deal with her problems by continuing to work. It is not easy, considering that she is being deposed in preparation for a lawsuit. However, when Marie realizes that she is unable to treat children, she is forced to find other ways to deal with her problems. She finally accepts a leave of absence. Marie has built her life around her job and she has a beautiful apartment. The lawsuit could strip her of everything she has, and Marie reflects:

If all the money and possessions were stripped away, what, exactly, would be left?

She travels to Texas and begins to rebuild her relationships with her family. Marie and her sister, Lori, rapidly catch up. Her niece is also happy to see her. The true challenge will be rebuilding her relationship with her father. Marie’s father is losing his sight, but he is not prepared to admit defeat. At first, Marie tries to deal with her father professionally. She tries to offer him medical advice or help cleaning the house. Eventually, they find a way to talk to each other in spite of the distance that grew between them when Marie’s father learned of her abortion. When her father offers Marie advice that allows her to uncover evidence that clears her name, Marie not only overcomes the legal investigations but also finds a new way to organize her life.

When Oxygen closes, Marie has taken on a new job at a teaching hospital. She negotiated to ensure that she will be able to travel as a volunteer doctor, and now she treats children on a regular basis. She keeps in closer contact with her sister and family. Finally, she makes plans to have her father move to Seattle so they can be closer to one another. Marie’s life is no longer so strongly defined by her profession. She makes time for her self and for her family.

The Absence of Compassion Within the Legal System

After Jolene Jenson dies while in Marie’s care, life for both Marie and the hospital becomes very difficult. Life for Bobbie, Jolene’s mother, is ruined. Against her lawyer’s advice, Marie attends the funeral. There, she sees lawyers who introduce themselves to the grieving mother. The ensuing legal negotiations, depositions, and accusations are not only painful and disruptive but are drawn out for months. Marie reflects more than once that lawyers charge by the hour. Throughout the process, Cassella emphasizes the lack of compassion and the obsession with money inherent in the legal investigation. In contrast, Marie has never approached her profession with such inhumanity; she chooses to do her best to comfort her patients as they enter and leave surgery.

Marie feels terrible about what happened to Jolene and her mother....

(The entire section is 904 words.)