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TV Doctors Bring Unethical Behavior to Prime Time
Date:3/31/2010

Study finds frequent, 'outrageous' misdeeds on Grey's Anatomy, House

WEDNESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- In a hospital in Seattle, a doctor overly involved with a patient attempted to worsen that patient's condition so she could go higher on the list of people eligible for an organ transplant.

Fortunately, the physician was fired and, even more fortunately, the incident was completely fictitious, having been an episode in season 2 of the popular television show Grey's Anatomy.

But as far as entertainment goes, this was just one example of egregious behavior -- involving both ethics and professionalism -- that is apparently "rife" with on-screen medical professionals, say researchers at Johns Hopkins reporting in the April issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

As it turns out, the second season of both ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Fox's House, featuring the famously misanthropic Dr. Gregory House, were filled with episodes of lying, forgery, drunkenness and making health-care decisions without asking the patient's permission.

"This study was designed to see with what frequency these extraordinarily popular shows are depicting ethical issues in clinical medicine and also professionalism," said study co-author Ruth Faden, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The frequency with which ethical dilemmas arose on both Grey's Anatomy and House were "noteworthy," she also said, adding, "There were instances of pretty outrageous behavior on the part of doctors." Just one example: a physician on Grey's tried to induce a seizure in a patient so she would be transferred to another unit.

Although the Hopkins researchers haven't looked at the impact of these depictions (that's the next step) on viewers, one expert said the findings could be worrisome.

"Things that tend to find their way into popular ent
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