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Medical professionalism and the fictional TV medical drama House MD

McGill University
Publication Date
  • Physician'S Role.
  • Professional Competence.
  • Ethics
  • Medical.
  • Television -- Ethics.
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy


This thesis is an exploration and analysis of what audiences may be learning about medical professionalism from the fictional television (TV) medical drama House MD. Fictional TV medical dramas are an important form of medical narrative in that they are usually created by writers with no medical training. As such, they carry a higher risk of portraying the practice of medicine inaccurately. A review of the scholarly literature reveals that there is a precedent for fictional TV medical dramas to affect viewers' perception of the practice of medicine and health behaviours, and viewers' understanding of medical ethics issues. It also reveals strong empirical evidence that TV medical dramas can affect audience's perceptions of physicians' character. A thorough review of the first two seasons of House MD reveals 20 lessons on professionalism (i.e. lessons on interactions with colleagues and patients, medical ethics, and professional competence) that the title character, Gregory House, is imparting to viewers. All 20 lessons are in direct conflict with established charters on professionalism. Arguments are made for the programme's potential to negatively affect patient access to care, physician-patient relations, interactions between healthcare professionals, and applications to medical school.

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