Grey’s Anatomy has been one of my favorite shows since its debut in 2005. Okay, I’ll admit, part of me watches the show only to stare at McDreamy’s hair or McSteamy’s washboard abs, but the other part of me thoroughly enjoys the ethical dilemmas that the cast faces each episode. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, I’ll catch you up with some brief background:
Grey’s Anatomy (no, not Gray’s Anatomy, the book) is a medical drama television show created by Shonda Rhimes, who also created the spinoff called Private Practice. Grey’s Anatomy takes place in Seattle, Washington and follows the lives of several interns, residents, and patients as they attempt to balance their medical careers with their personal lives — something that is not always easy. Inappropriate relationships, breaches in patient confidentiality, and intense conflicts of interest are not uncommon at Seattle Grace Hospital. The doctors continually face moral dilemmas and are at constant war with each other about what the “right” thing to do is.
One of the main characters, Meredith Grey, is known for making reckless decisions. Although these decisions are usually viewed as the unethical, it’s sometimes hard to completely disagree with her actions. For example, in season seven, Meredith tampers with Dr. Shepherd’s Alzheimer’s trial by switching the paperwork so that the Chief’s wife Adele Webber will receive the Alzheimer drug that Dr. Shepherd is administering to several patients. Adele’s condition seemed to be deteriorating quickly, and since the Chief has acted as a father figure throughout the years, Meredith figured she would help him out. After all, Meredith’s mother passed away from Alzheimer’s, so she experienced first hand how devastating the disease can be. Did Meredith do the wrong thing?
Of course Meredith didn’t do the “right” thing. But on the other hand, part of me was rooting for her as I sat and watched the episode, hoping she would go through with it despite how risky it was. Nevertheless, looking back on her action today, I can say with complete confidence that she did the wrong thing. The whole point of clinical trials are that they are designed and conducted with great care to ensure valid results that are free of bias. Proper randomization of patients and making sure they don’t know if they are administered the trial drug or the placebo are crucial to preventing bias. Although Meredith was trying to help a friend, if we all tried to help a friend in this kind of matter, chaos would ensue.
I’m not sure that this story directly relates to any of the material we’ve read for class, but it is a good reminder that acting ethically and doing the right thing is imperative. I suppose it kind of reminds me of the Enron case where the company started to cut corners and not follow the rules, ultimately leading to Enron’s collapse. Hypothetically of course, if Seattle Grace Hospital always cut corners, it would most likely have some sort of collapse itself.
Long story short: as much as you sometimes want to help out a friend, its costs might not outweigh its benefits. You might actually be hurting more people than helping. If we expect others to act ethically, we must do the same.