Robocop (1987) begins with the officer Alex Murphy being gunned down and taken to the ER. The doctors fail to revive him. The answer to another question quotes this portion of the script:

Surgeon #1 - Ok, let's shock him to flatline, then quit.

[They shock him]

Surgeon #2 - No pulse!

Surgeon #1 - I'm calling it [medical slang for declaring the time of death].

The line “shock him to flatline, then quit” sounds awful like the first doctor wants Murphy to flatline so that he can be declared cardiovascularly dead (so that they can harvest his brain).

Does Murph have a medical malpractice or first degree murder case against Surgeon #1?

2 Answers 2


Was Officer Alex Murphy medically murdered?

No. If you look a little earlier in the script, you will see he was already flatlining (after all, he had just been shot in the head).

Surgeon #1: "Coarse D-fib. Let's shock him again."

Surgeon #2: "Clear."

Surgeon #1: "Flat line. Let's go, intracardiac epinephrine."

Surgeon #2: "All right, it's in. No pulse."

Surgeon #1: "Let's go ahead and shock a flat line and then quit."

Therefore in context, it seems that shock a flat line implies they were trying to shock Murphy out of the flat line he already had.

Does Murphy have a medical malpractice or first degree murder case against Surgeon #1?

Unlikely. Officer Murphy had waived his medical rights1. As we see later, when discussing whether they could remove the human arm that the OCP surgeons had saved:

Johnson: "He signed a release when he joined the force. And he's dead. We can do pretty much what we want."

1 Though that applies to OCP (and not necessarily the hospital, unless OCP also owned that!).

  • 2
    The scripts are slightly different between the two versions. Since you have a source, I’m taking you as authoritative.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    Thanks @RoboKaren and you are right, there are various script versions (I haven't seen one that matches the movie 100%). Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 14:47

No doctors can restart a heart

They can only stop it. And this is what shocking does. Fibrillation, which is one state of a heart that is "failing" is something the body usually does not recover from by itself. However, if you can stop the heart from fibrillation, bringing it to a complete stop, the body sometimes restarts the rhythm. This is surprisingly enough, called defibrillation.

That is why doctors stop the heart - they are hoping that your body will restart it. Usually, if your heart has not been fibrillating for too long and deprived your body of oxygen - it does restart on it's own.

So, your question is based on a flawed premise - doctors cannot do anything else with the shock trolley than stop a heart.

  • That's a good answer that explains the line (and teaches me something I didn't know). But it would a great answer with some citation. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 15:41
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    Defibrillation : "If the heart has completely stopped, as in asystole or pulseless electrical activity (PEA), defibrillation is not indicated. Defibrillation is also not indicated if the patient is conscious or has a pulse."
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 17:31
  • @Mazurka Good idea, I'll edit it in.
    – Stian
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 6:03
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    @PeterTaylor Then we are reading two different questions? "Does Murph have a medical malpractice or first degree murder case against Surgeon #1?" My answer could perhaps use an explicit "No", but I was hoping it was inferred by the fact that doctors can only stop a heart, and a flatline - is a flatline - there is nothing to be done with that. Only fibrillation or tachycardia can be treated with a defibrillator, and the only function that equipment has is to create a flatline. (In the hope that the heart will restart normal rythm.)
    – Stian
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 10:14
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    @PeterTaylor Yes, they want him to flatline - since that is why they are shocking him. The only reason to use the crash cart is to make the heart flatline. It has no other purpose, at least medically.
    – Stian
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 14:40

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