Do TV Medical Dramas Accurately Portray Doctors?

March 28, 2018

Medical dramas have been a television staple ever since Medic, Dr. Kildare, and Ben Casey hit the airwaves more than 50 years ago. While fictional doctors keep viewers glued to the screen, do they portray their subjects accurately?

At least one current show, Fox's The Resident, doesn't seem to be up to standards. In a recent Medscape opinion piece, graduating medical school students Jesse Handler and Julia Agee refer to the show as poor entertainment that "harms the public by grossly misrepresenting core concepts of medicine."

"The Resident gives a false account of medical education, skewers medical facts, and glorifies unprofessional and frankly illegal behaviors by a physician," they write.  

Egregious errors depicted on the show include using ice baths to break arrhythmias, placing central lines by blindly cutting into the neck, and snapping operating room selfies. HIPAA violations, casual racism, and sexual harassment abound, Handler and Agee point out. In reality, such a high level of unethical behavior and unprofessionalism wouldn't be tolerated anywhere, they say.

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