Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Top Three Medically Inaccurate Shows: IMHO

Let me say first, television shows are not a good resource for medical research. Scratch that-- reality shows where they actually film a medical team in action are good for sights, sounds, etc.

However, those fictionalized series written by writers are likely not. Here are my top three offenders as far as medical inaccuracy goes. This is not to say that I don't love watching these shows-- how else would I know they were so horrible for medical inaccuracy?

#3  Dexter: The reason I include Dexter on this list is that it perpetuated one of the leading medical myths. . . that you must keep the head injured patient awake. This is not true and doesn't prevent a serious medical outcome. You can read here about this medical myth.


#2  FlashPoint: From giving a patient (my favorite character) too much Morphine that would have likely killed him to my favorite sentence, "I can't detect a heartbeat. His blood pressure is low." For one, if you are listening to the patient's chest and can't hear a heartbeat, then your patient is dead and therefore has no blood pressure and should receive CPR post haste!

#1  Grey's Anatomy: I'm not even a surgeon and I know that watching Grey's likely causes surgeons across the country to go into lethal arrhythmias. Two of my favorite instances of medical inaccuracy. One was a patient who needed major neck surgery-- twice. After the first neck surgery, he's placed in a C-collar to prevent movement. But then, it becomes medically necessary to do plastic surgery on his ear (not life saving by any means). In that shot, the patient's head was turned all the way to the side so they could reach it. Guess his neck was stable after a mere few hours. Then he goes back for a second neck surgery and after that, isn't even in a C-collar. That is some rapid healing-- let me say.

My next favorite Grey's inaccuracy was the chief resident having control over the nurses' schedule. People, let me tell, physicians do not have anything to do with staffing nurses. Never. Especially to put them closer to a physician they are pining over.

What medical shows would you add to my list?


  1. I never could watch ER after they intubated a kid with epiglottitis in the ER--bad move. Really better to be in the OR in a much more controlled environment with a general anesthetic. And though I loved to watch House for all the weird and bizarre diagnoses, it really bugged me that it appeared the only people working in a hospital were the residents and House--Need an Xray? No problem! One of the residents will shoot it for you! Need an IV antibiotic for that bizarre infection? No big deal! The resident will run right in and start your IV and hang that drug! NOT! From intricate surgery, the docs did it all and that is just not realistic. In general, I am bugged by pts who are on a vent but can talk, or are in the hospital and they just park a vent in their room lol as well as people doing surgery in scrubs without a gown and sometimes no mask. When I retire, I want a job as a consultant! Great post!

  2. My hubby and I watched an episode of The Mentalist recently where several police officers were shot. Two died before help arrived, but the third was alive when they were found. So, someone checked for pulses, it's announced "I have a weak pulse!" and they proceed to do CPR on the guy--on his STOMACH. Even I, with no medical background, know that's wrong, but my hubby is a First Responder, and he was detailing every wrong thing they did. Then, at the end of the episode, the same guy has been in the hospital, talking coherently and seeming to improve, but right at the end of the show, there's a conversation between him and the female cop who saved him that "they say you've lost a lot of blood. You won't make it." I don't recall them doing transfusions or anything on this guy, and when he quietly slipped away, not one doctor or nurse came to attend his death.

  3. There was that crazy episode on "Grey's Anatomy" where Meredith was underwater for 45 minutes and came back from it. Seriously? Unless she turned into Aqualung while she was down there, I don't see how she could come through being oxygen deprived for so long.

    1. LOL. Yeah, that doesn't sound so believable. Amazing how writers get away with things.

  4. Jordyn, Can't help you with your list--I don't watch medical shows on TV. That goes back all the way to Ben Casey (although Marcus Welby wasn't bad).
    Unfortunately, the problem extends to books, as well. One of my favorite writers, a multiple NYT best-selling author of legal thrillers,has a number of medical inaccuracies in his books--such as giving a patient IV Vicodin. Oh, well, John--you confess in our acknowledgements that you hate research.

  5. I have to confess I love Dexter. I haven't watched it this season but it's just the way the writers build the suspense and leave you with a hook. I think that's what gets me. My Hubby used to watch it and it never interested me but one day I sat down and somehow those writers hook.

    Good to know about the head injury. I didn't know that. I always wonder when watching shows how much of it is actually true. I don't understand why they don't all double check to see if it's believable. I always make sure if my medical stuff is plausible. And a BIG thanks to YOU, a few of my novels got your expertise.

    This was a great post! Very interesting.

  6. Where does that happen in Flashpoint? :) This article reminds me of that episode of Bones where they were making one of her books into a movie and she criticized the glaring forensic errors they were making...:D

    Oh, and I heard about something in the Reader's Digest about injectable oxygen microcapsules that can keep a non-breathing person oxygenated for up to half an hour. Wish I could find the link.

  7. Speaking of Bones, I heard Kathy Reichs talk about the show, which she's happy with, but says her own office is nowhere near as glamorous as Tempe Brennan's.

  8. Kim: So true. Yes, that cracks me up-- residents doing procedures like doing x-rays. I'm beginning to wonder where they get their medical experts for sure.

    Jennifer: Nice. Abdominal compressions. Ugghh... Seemingly, if you need a TV patient to die... you don't need to provide a logical reason as to why.

    Richard: WOW. IV Vicodin. Nice. Some of these things are not too hard to figure out.

    Mart: You are welcome and I am a big Dexter fan too-- particularly from the plot weaving standpoint. It is amazing.

    Laura: I don't remember the exact episode. I know it wasn't Bones because I don't watch that show. If you find the link for the oxygen mecrocapsules-- let me know.

    Sue: Interesting about Reichs's comments.

    Thanks everyone. Such great comments!