Behind the scenes of 'Dr House': The most glaring medical bloopers on the popular series

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Unusual diagnoses and mistakes on Doctor House
Photograph taken and granted by Flickr user Xside. User account:
20:00, 21.05.2023

In Doctor House, as in most television series, one can find specific episodes in which medical accuracy has been sacrificed for plot intricacies.

The popular television series Dr House, which aired from 2004 to 2012, undoubtedly has great actors and intriguing plots. However, many doctors and health professionals have noticed a number of medical inaccuracies that they believe may cause misunderstandings among viewers. Let's take a look at some of these.

1. Unusually quick diagnosis: In the TV series Dr. House, the diagnosis of an illness and the determination of the appropriate treatment is often made in one episode, i.e. in just a few days. In practice, however, diagnosing complex medical conditions can take weeks and sometimes months, not to mention choosing the right treatment.

2. Unlikely diagnoses: House and his team regularly encounter rare and exotic diseases that afflict very few people in the world. In real life, doctors are far more likely to encounter common illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

3.Overemphasis on invasive diagnostics: In the TV series Dr. House, invasive procedures such as lung biopsies or spinal cord punctures are often shown. In practice, doctors try to use less invasive diagnostic methods to minimise the risks to the patient.

4. An unrealistic view of a doctor's work: The protagonist, Dr House, often personally performs complex and specialised procedures that are usually performed by specialist doctors. In addition, he spends considerably more time on diagnostics than on routine work, which also does not correspond to reality.

5. Lack of medical ethics: In a number of episodes, Dr. House and his team ignore standards of medical ethics, disregarding patients' rights or making decisions without their consent. In real life, such behaviour would be seriously condemned and could lead to professional liability.

Let's look at specific episodes where "cinematography" dominates reality

Episode Three Stories (Season 1): Cuddy assigns House to replace the diagnostics teacher, and despite trying to evade responsibility, he still has to teach the class. There, he invites the trainees to break down three cases of patients with leg pain and diagnose them themselves, before any of them die. He later says that he refused amputation, opting for a risky operation that could have saved his leg but left him with a limp and pain. In reality, doctors do not usually suggest that patients make these decisions for themselves. Instead, they suggest the best course of treatment based on scientific evidence and the patient's best interests.

Behind the scenes of 'Dr House': The most glaring medical bloopers on the popular series

In Episode 13 of Season 2 of Skin Deep, House treats a teenage model who he eventually discovers has a condition called total androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS), which makes her look female, although her body, where her reproductive system should be, has male genitals hidden inside.

However, when House's best friend, oncologist Dr James Wilson, performs an ultrasound to check the patient's ovarian cancer, he fails to notice that she is missing a uterus. Although it is possible that he mistook her bladder for her uterus, this seems unlikely, as it would mean that she is missing a bladder.

Behind the scenes of 'Dr House': The most glaring medical bloopers on the popular series

In the 13th episode of Season 1, "Detox", House tries to prove that he is not dependent on Vicodin by betting with Cuddy that if he can go a week without it, he can go a month without being on clinic duty. Throughout the episode, House's condition gets worse and worse, to the point where his team begins to question whether he should treat patients without medication at all.

The biggest slip-up of the episode occurs when House breaks his fingers. He asks his friend Dr. Wilson to tape them up, confirming that they are broken, but later, when he does an autopsy on a dead cat he has full control of his hand again.

Behind the scenes of 'Dr House': The most glaring medical bloopers on the popular series

Whatever the case, Dr House remains an iconic series and many doctors admit that, despite its medical inaccuracies, it admirably demonstrates the process of differential diagnosis and the importance of a holistic approach to patients.

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15:00, 14.05.23
Maria Grynevych
Maria Grynevych
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Maria Grynevych

Maria Grinevich, project manager, journalist, co-author of Guidebook Sacred Mountains of the Dnieper Region, Lecture Course: Cult Topography of the Middle Dnieper Region.