Bioethics Blogs

BioethicsTV: Boundaries are Black and White on Grey’s

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Reaching back to its roots, Grey’s Anatomy in its 12th season has been investigating more professional and ethical challenges in medicine. The April 28th episode (Season12: Episode 21) focused on questions of boundaries of why physicians should not treat their loved ones.

The first story was about a resident dating a former patient. Since the key term is former such a move may not be a pragmatic choice, but it does not violate professional boundaries (unless the physician is a psychiatrist in which case the APA says it may never be okay to date a former patient). The AMA does note that even after the physician-patient relationship has ended, the physician may have knowledge or influence from the prior connection that might influence any romantic relationship. On Grey’s, the resident finds herself bringing her boyfriend to the hospital when he experiences tremors in his left hand that mirror those that he was previously treated for in the right hand. In his last surgery to treat the tremor, the resident was on the surgical team. This time, she wants to be, but the attending tells her that she can’t be the doctor of a family member. When the attending asks the patient if he wants another surgery, the resident answers yes. When the attending asks him again if he wants the surgery, he responds, “what she said.”

The attending even takes the resident’s key-badge so that she cannot be in the OR or in the observation gallery. Instead, the attending tells the resident to go sit with the families in the waiting room.

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.