Bioethics Blogs

Is There An Ethics Consultant In The House? Striving For Verisimilitude In Chicago Med

by Kayhan Parsi, JD, PhD and Nanette Elster, JD, MPH

The new NBC medical drama Chicago Med premiered this week. A spin off of other established NBC dramas (Chicago Fire and Chicago PD), Chicago Med focuses on the working lives of health care professionals in a busy emergency department in the city of Chicago. Sound familiar? It should, because that was the premise of the hugely successful NBC series ER that premiered over 20 years ago in 1994 and launched the careers of several successful actors.

Hitchcock once said that “Drama is life with the dull bits left out.” The same could be said about Chicago Med. In the very first episode, a catastrophic train derailment occurs on the El in downtown Chicago. Countless injured bodies are whisked to the Gaffney Chicago Medical Center hospital. They’re cared for by an exceptionally attractive team of health care professionals. Amidst the high energy on display in this drama, the series premier is also a veritable showcase of ethical issues:

  • Early in the episode, one of the neurosurgery attendings bitterly complains about the new rules limiting residency hours (“new rules—ridiculous and bad for medicine”). Of course, there’s nothing new about the rules as they’ve been ACGME requirements for a dozen years.
  • A woman with a traumatic brain injury who is unconscious is discovered to be a gestational surrogate. The genetic mother is incorrectly referred to as the biological mother. The scenario strains credulity as the surrogate reportedly lives with the intended parents. The contract even delegates surrogate decision-making authority to them which is a clear conflict of interest.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.