Inaccuracies in Medical Television Dramas


Medical drama television shows have been highly criticized by medical professionals for their inaccurate representations of medical practices, and the implications these inaccuracies can have on the general public’s perception.  Although their story lines and characters have captured the attention and hearts of many loyal viewers, these medical television shows are highly criticized for their tendencies to incorporate inaccurate and unrealistic portrayals of real life medical practices. Real-life medical professionals often cringe at the highly impractical scenes depicted in the episodes, but some audience members may not know of all the inaccuracies demonstrated without a medical background.  CPR is an example a procedure that is often performed with improper technique and unrealistic results.  An audience member with no previous experience with CPR may assume the television show is correctly demonstrating the method and outcomes.  There have been several headlines in the news over the years that claim these shows are saving lives because people think back to what they have seen on TV to act in a time of crisis. 

Two sources from the Internet both discuss the inaccuracies often represented in medical television dramas.  One of the sources is a popular news article while the other is a peer-reviewed journal.  While both share the same general opinion that many medical dramas are depicting unrealistic information to audiences, the articles use different forms of evidence and formatting to demonstrate their results.


Article OneEdit

An article from the Stanford Medical Magazine titled “Is There a Critic in the House” by Mitzi Baker discusses the use of unrealistic scenes and techniques used in medical television dramas that do not accurately portray real practices in hospitals.  They focus in particular on the widely watched television show Grey’s Anatomy to point out instances in which the show incorporates highly unlikely scenes.  The overall opinion of the article is that while these scenes may false representations of what really goes on in a hospital, the drama of these scenes capture the attention and hearts of their audiences.

To support their opinion, the article used quotes from interviewed medical professionals on the portrayals in medical television shows.  Many of these professionals admit to being loyal fans of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, but say it is often difficult to watch the unrealistic portrayal of on goings in hospitals.  While many were inclined to laugh at these inaccuracies, they also say that there are other medical professionals that criticize the shows for giving out false information to the public that can be dangerous or harmful for their audience if the audience does not know the reality of the situations. They say that many of the acts portrayed are often illegal or unethical and hardly ever have realistic consequences. Edit

Article TwoEdit

The other article titled “Resuscitation on television: Realistic or ridiculous? A quantitative observational analysis of the portrayal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in television medical drama” written by Dylan Harris and Hannah Willoughby is a peer-reviewed journal which also discusses the impractical information in medical television dramas.  They focus their attention specifically on comparing the patient characteristics, cause and success rates of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on medical television drama with published resuscitation statistics.  They use a different format than that of the popular news article to demonstrate their findings.  Rather than using interviews and quotes from medical professionals, this article collects quantitative evidence to demonstrate how unrealistic the portrayal of CPR often is.

This article also expresses a concern that the general public will perceive the survival rates of patients or victims in television shows as being more realistic than they really are. They looked at different characteristics of the people receiving CPR such as age and gender in select television shows and compared it to the real averages reported in real life.  They also looked at success rates of CPR in the select medical shows and compared them to actual statistics.  They found some significant differences between the medical dramas and real-life, but there were some instances in which they admit there is not as big of a difference in the numbers.  Beyond just numerical data, the article also points out other factors in which the television shows fail to portray to demonstrate a real sense of accurate CPR effects. They point out that television shows usually either show the CPR failing to save the life of the patient or victim, or completely saving them with little to no damage.  In reality, many people who receive CPR will have some negative consequences to their bodies after the CPR has been performed. Edit

Overall the article suggests that while there aren’t significant differences in the overall number of survival rates in medical dramas and reality like medical professionals claim, they will say that there are important factors that can cause the general public to be misinformed about the outcomes of CPR.  These factors include the lack of mention of long-term outcomes after CPR, the fact that shows usually either portray an immediate full recovery or death, and the inaccuracies in assuming that different ages will have the same chance of survival as others.Edit

Features and GeneralizationsEdit

Both articles develop an opinion relating to the inaccuracies of medical television dramas and their effect on the perception of general audiences.  The articles use different features and information to support their viewpoints in the most effective way for their audiences.  In the first article, interviews from medical professionals are used to express the viewpoints they expected the medical professionals would have about the unrealistic portrayals on medical dramas.  All of the quotes and opinions mentioned in the article supported their overall claim that medical professionals notice these inaccuracies and find that they give off false information to the general public. They also mention the popular television show Grey’s Anatomy to help the audience get a sense of examples of what kinds of medical errors are included in episodes.                                                                               

The second article uses comparisons in statistical evidence between medical television dramas and actual real-life occurrences. This article does not include any examples of opinions from medical professionals. Instead, they use quantitative data and factual data to support their claims.  The article is careful to include facts and numbers that specifically support their opinion.  It includes some information that counters their overall claim, but for the most part they incorporate information that overrides the counter argument and better supports their own argument. 

Generally, articles will use examples and data that specifically supports the overall opinion the article is trying to express.  The data used can be demonstrated in different forms such as quotes or charts, but the evidence must tie in to the form of the article and the tone the article is written in.  The articles sometimes include some evidence that counters their main point, but then the article is careful to then provide evidence that countermands the opposing viewpoint. 

Advice for College FreshmenEdit

When writing papers you want to first develop a strong and specific opinion to which you will find effective evidence to support your viewpoint. The evidence that you use should be carefully selected to make sure it directly relates to your main viewpoint and can explicitly express the point you are trying to make.  It can also be effective to incorporate some counter evidence to your claim that you can then provide more evidence that proves that your argument can override their claims.  You will want to also choose evidence that ties in to the style of writing you are using.  In the first article, they were writing about the overall opinions of medical professionals, so they interviewed individual medical professionals and included quotes from these professionals that agreed with what they claimed was the overall opinion of medical professionals.  In the second article they were writing a peer-reviewed journal, so statistical facts and results were more appropriate to incorporate than opinions.  Because the two articles used a different format and a different tone, you can see that certain types of evidence are more effective than others for their papers specifically.