Monday, October 08, 2007

Medical Dramas- the New Reality TV?

We touched on this topic briefly during a class session, discussing the challenge involved in trying to provide accuracy as a knowledgeable professional, while dealing with television producers whose job it is to provide drama and excitement for the viewer. Often accuracy goes out the window. After 25 years of dealing with the same myself on the news side, I can relate personally.

This article, from, addresses the issue of how these programs frequently make mistakes in the information ultimately shared with viewers, despite their reliance on any number of experts and consultants there to provide accurate representations of diseases, and medical procedures. With a more sophisticated consumer/viewer, there's little concern that these shows are seen as nothing more than entertainment. However, a number of studies have published data that this perception may be far from reality.

It's no secret that many lay people get and rely more and more on information gleaned from popular media, and less from reliable sources. These studies, published in several scholarly journals, presented findings that showed viewer perceptions and beliefs about procedures such as cosmetic surgery, to organ donation, that were directly attributable to these programs.

So what do you think?
Is this unfolding trend the result of blatant disregard for the facts on the part of TV networks, who use creative license beyond its purpose--in other words taking entertainment too far--or are the studies over dramatizing the issue and "making something out of nothing"?

1 comment:

Kelly Hills said...

I mostly want to hover protectively over my books and resources and hiss at the world, who should go away until I'm done, this is mine, damnit.

But it would appear that unless I get my ass in gear rapidly, that's not going to be the case, so I might as well share.

There's a book called Playing Doctor that talks about the history of the AMA, medical shows, and Hollywood - and to me, at least, it indicates that these issues have been present since media became media. It's not really a trend, so much as people are noticing it again right now. (I suspect if we were to go back to the early 80s, when there was an influx of medical shows and media-spotlighted medical cases, we would see and hear the same concerns.)

Neal Baer - exec producer of ER way back when - has also weighed in on this, as has, I believe, George Annas. However, there hasn't been too much writing or work on this in the las 10-12 years or so (just a piece here and there), so it seems like the academic market, as well as media market, is ripe, once again, for people to talk about this.

...but I'm pretty sure it's cyclical. It's just there are some variances in the cycle now that shows are not seeking AMA seals of approval, a la Dr. Kildare.

...I'll stop rambling now. Wouldn't want to give away ALL my ideas. ;-)