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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Love/Hate Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy is one of my favorite shows, not for the fact that it has anything to do with medicine, but that it's got funny and interesting plot lines. However, I hope that those of you who aren't in the medical field don't get the impression that Grey's Anatomy resembles any sort of medical reality.

Surgical interns don't scrub into surgeries. They spend their time on the "floors", taking care of pre- and post-surgical patients, doing the "scut" work. They don't date their supervising physicians, let alone socialize with them. Saying things like, "I'd like to get a chem panel, CBC, and CT of the head" doesn't make you look smart in the real world. And since when do orthopedic surgeons and obstetricians supervise surgical interns? They don't.

The most recent plot line pushes reality even further. The surgical interns are sent out to a mass casualty in Seattle. One intern finds a man crushed by a car, and without any tools, she's asked to save his life. Conveniently, she has the head of the department of surgery on speed dial on her cell phone, who talks her through the process of drilling holes into the man's skull in order to reduce the pressure in his brain. I would have preferred seeing her stand by as he dies. That's reality -- interns don't drill Burr holes in brains.

Another subplot is that intern Meredith Grey, the main character, falls into the river. She's eventually pulled out of the water by her boyfriend McDreamy. Having been under water for at least several minutes, if not longer, she is in cardiac arrest. CPR is performed for what seems like an inappropriately long period of time. She is pronounced dead. Then in previews for next week's episode, you see one of her co-interns insist that CPR is continued, that not everything has truly been done.

Let's just put it this way -- after prolonged CPR, the odds of coming back are exceedingly slim. This sends an awful message to the lay public, that you're not really dead, that you can't give up on CPR ever. A message that will take away from the dignity of dying patients everywhere.

Medical shows are fiction. But writers need to realize the impact of their scripts on how people perceive medicine.

7 comments:

KleoPatra said...

Ugh, another reason i'm glad i gave up the ol' TV years ago...

But i gotta admit, i found a reviewer's copy of "Family Guy" a few months ago and i've rented some of the older shows and watched 'em on my DVD player... i have gotten hooked!

Veg*Triathlete said...

I love that show. I can't explain why, because the storylines-medical and otherwise-obviously border on absurd. I mean, one day someone says, "I want a Free Clinic" and the next week it's up and running??? That could have been a great storyline, but it was totally trivialized. But I can't stop watching...

Melody said...

I can see why this would drive you nuts...

I love the show, but have questioned the reality of many of the medical scenes...and gotten really, really pissed off at the OB/GYN storylines.... because it is sooo fear based and totally against any normal, natural births...

KleoPatra said...

i got an e-mail from a friend of mine who does rescue work for dogs in Pennsylvania and she said that last night's episode (not sure when it was, maybe Thursday?!) was about crossing over to the "Rainbow Bridge" and had animals, etc., and that it was a tear-jerker/feel-good. Now i'm actually sorry i don't watch TV because i think this one i might have truly enjoyed.

Did i just say that?!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the message behind your post, especially with the CPR aspect.

Just for interest's sake though, at least in some centers in Canada, 1st year neurosurgery residents (ie. PGY1, directly out of med school - would be interns in the US) do drill burr holes in emergency situations and place EVDs (external ventricular drains).

I actually think it's a skill more physicians (in the real world, not on Grey's!) should be trained in, as it can be life-saving procedure and is relatively straightforward.

Geoff said...

You've just summed up my feelings about Boston Legal. Funny show, but stretches the reality of the practice of law quite a bit. Especially the recent story line where it's taken as gospel that you have to be a despicable person who is willing to despicable things to be a lawyer, and if neither applies to you, you should just leave the profession. Definitely not true at all.

Lia Kay said...

I know this is a really old post, but I had to comment.

I always assume that TV knows only general and writer-interpreted facts about all fields.

I get a lot of that with TV psychology (I'm in the psychological field). I've seen shows that rely only on Freud's findings, that have psychologists locking people in their super fancy psychology dungeons to torture/"study" people they've had "volunteer," and a lot more.

Usually, I laugh about it because it's so off base. But then I get people in real life who believe it and think that's what I do for a living. -sigh-