House Watching

Watched House, a new medical drama starring Hugh Laurie, for the first time last night.

Laurie is very, very good as a brilliant but highly misanthropic diagnostician at a large hospital. ("Obviously, I don't like you. But that's okay; I don't like anybody.")

However, the writing on the episode...

The story centered around a high-strung fashion executive who suffered sudden paralysis and extreme pain in her leg. After numerous tests, dead ends, and further complications, Dr. House is able to deduce that she has congestive heart failure, and needs a heart transplant, pronto.

But... the reason such a young person's heart is failing is that she is a chronic bulimic (and self-cutter), who's been using ipecac syrup to induce vomiting regularly. And the repeated dosing of ipecac has the side effect of causing muscle (i.e., heart) damage. And that behavior means she would be psychiatrically ineligible for a heart transplant.

So House lies to the hospital's transplant committee. The girl gets her new heart. (Almost immediately. Yeah, that happens.)

Uhh... no.

Besides being brilliant and irascible, House is supposed to highly, highly ethical. A real prick about the behavior of other doctors and the hospital in general.

So he lets someone technically disqualified from a transplant get one anyway. Which means that some other person, some person who does meet the criteria for a transplant, won't get the heart that was put into the fashion executive's chest.

As written, House let someone else, someone never actually seen or named, die in order to save a person with a compulsion towards self-mutilation and self-damage.

What were the writers thinking?

To be true to the character, the episode should have had House making sure that the executive did NOT receive the transplant. I would have made one of the young doctors training under House (I don't remember the characters' names, so I'll refer to them as The White Guy, The Black Guy, and The Female Guy) be the one trying to save the (young, good-looking) fashionista's life, and end up overruled by House.

The episode also had a subplot featuring a man unable to speak, with an undiagnosed case of spastic dysphonia. So House goes to the man (who is not even his patient!), distracts him, and sticks a syringeful of Botox into his throat!

Any doctor who gave unagreed-to treatment to a patient, especially some other doctor's patient, would be escorted off the hospital grounds by Security, and not allowed back. As the substory was written, House wasn't acting like a brilliant doctor, he was acting like a public menace.

The character, as portrayed by Laurie, has immense potential. But, jeez, what ARE the writers thinking?


Anonymous said...

You left out the fact that the guy House stuck with the Botox still pretended he couldn't speak, so he wouldn't have to give back the million bucks he got in a malpractice suit against the surgeon; and House went along with this. I think this in itself might constitute malpractice. It certainly constitutes disdain for his colleague's professional reputation and insurance premium expenses (and the guy's supposed to be more or less a friend of his).

I've been watching this show fairly regularly since it first came on, and I think it much inferior to classics like MARCUS wELBY, M.D., BEN CASEY, and DR. KILDARE--let alone such recent successes as CHICAGO HOPE and ER. My interest in the more recent ones tends to lapse pretty quickly, because they get off into the characters' personal lives, which I usually find sordid, uninteresting, or both. CHICAGO HOPE didn't, really, but that's David E. Kelley. I wonder if this would be because the writers of today's medical shows got their start on the likes of GENERAL HOSPITAL and other soaps rather than detective shows, as perhaps the earlier generation did?

That episode of HOUSE seems to be the beginning of a new story arc in which a black billionaire (Chi McBride), having given the hospital $100 million, demands (and gets, apparently without anyone voting!) to become chairman of the hospital's governing board. He is apparently going to clash with House regularly; he has already expressed a wish to shut down House's department, Diagnostics, because it's not cost-efficient, and replace it with machines. I think I've seen this plot before--in one of Max Brand's original Dr. Kildare novels!

Have you tried MEDICAL INVESTIGATION? I watched one episode, but wasn't interested enough to follow up. The new shows I like this season are BOSTON LEGAL, Kelley's new lawyer show; and MEDIUM, which is well written and acted (as well as set locally).

Gary Farber said...

I came close to blogging my equal irritation at various bits of incredibly stupid unreality in the first couple of episodes of the even newer Grey's Anatomy; despite some fine casting and good acting, several plot elements were simply so dumb I gave up on the show after those first two (one was the lead character giving up after about twenty seconds of trying to persuade a mother-and-daughter pair of illegal immigrants to come into the hospital for treatment of head wounds, and she instead illegally treats them in the parking lot; sorry, but big city ERs deal with illegals every day, and treating one incident as extraordinary (nothing whatever about it was), and proceeding to violate the rules (which are there for damn good reasons; if something went wrong, help isn't available in the frigging parking lot, not to mention that people actually use parking lots, and would have seen them) simply suggested to me that the "heroic" doctor was an effing idiot I wouldn't let near me. This is not what you want to suggest about your lead character; there were yet other bits I now mercifully forget).

Anonymous said...

(Sorry, I know this post is a billion years old, but I just came across it).

This show kills me. I have spasmodic dysphonia, and, although I haven't gotten botox treatment, I've done enough research into it to be reasonably sure that it requires some *careful* placement. You know, so you don't completely lose the ability to talk or breathe. Yeah, I'd trust a doc who came jabbing at my neck without even checking for anatomical markers or caring if I suddenly turned my head.

Oh well, I guess I should just be relieved the resolution wasn't that it was just a hysterical manifestation, as many docs STILL believe. Of course, if the patient had been a woman . . .