“Private Practice” offers a new medical challenge each week. The show is about patients and their illnesses, but did you notice it’s also about the ethical debates behind their struggles? That’s how the show’s “Researcher’s Blog” explains it. Dr. Noah Evslin, “Private Practice” Director of Medical Research, writes the blog for the ABC show’s website. He provides a “medical perspective on every episode” and highlights ethical issues viewers might otherwise miss. Here are a few examples.
Should parents have the right to demand medication for their child despite a doctor’s advice?
In the episode “If I Hadn’t Forgotten,” Coop treated a boy whose parents insisted he was ADHD and needed Ritalin or Adderall. They didn’t want to wait for a medical assessment. In fact, they had already been treating him with a sibling’s medication. The blog discussed a known ethical issue: Some parents actually want an ADHD diagnosis. ADHD children get extended testing periods on college exams. The drugs also increase a child’s focus, helping them concentrate better in school.
How far should you go to help a friend?
The episode “Step One” dealt with Amelia’s promise to assist her friend, Michelle, in her suicide. Her Huntington’s disease diagnosis meant deteriorating nerve endings, dementia, loss of control and eventually death, and she wanted to take an easier way out. The blog discussed the ethics of a friend’s duty to help under such circumstances.
Should a husband stay with his sick wife when he really wants to leave?
In the episode “Remember Me,” a husband struggled with leaving his pregnant wife after a brain trauma left her with anterograde amnesia. She was confused and agitated all the time. She remembered facts from before the accident, but couldn’t store recent memories. The blog addressed guilt and whether or not a person should be required to stay with a sick spouse.
Should a doctor perform a risky procedure for a non life-threatening condition?
In the episode “Deal With It,” Jake and Addison locked horns over whether or not to perform a uterine transplant. It was an untried procedure. If successful, the patient might have been able to carry a baby to term. If not, it could have meant serious complications. The “Researcher’s Blog” discussed this as a medical story line and also explained a few real-life situations: An actual uterine transplant performed in Saudi Arabia caused clotting and had to be removed 90 days later. A second uterine transplant was planned in Sweden.
Oxycodone addiction is bad, but why a doctor?
Dr. Evslin’s blog entry for the episode “Who We Are” discussed the growing problem of oxycodone addiction. Some 12 million Americans used the painkiller for non-medical purposes in 2010. The big ethical issue of the episode was Dr. Amelia Shepherd’s addiction. Why a doctor? The show wanted to get the point across that oxycodone addiction can happen to anyone.
For true “Private Practice” fans, the “Researcher’s Blog” is a great resource for medical back stories and ethical information. There are 53 blog entries altogether. That’s enough interesting reading to keep you busy for quite a while.