Artistic License - Medicine
aka: You Fail Your Medical Boards Forever
of Harold & Kumar
fame joined House
during Season 4, when his character refused to leave after getting fired during tryouts (in the House universe, hospitals choose doctors the same way high schools choose cheerleaders).
Injuries or illnesses requiring medical attention are a ubiquitous feature of fiction. With very few exceptions, even those who write medical dramas are not doctors themselves. Many have real doctors as consultants, but even with that there are still things that would never happen in real life that make it into a show to preserve Rule of Drama
This kind of failure in the media can be especially dangerous if presented as accurate through medical series, leading to well-meaning bystanders causing more harm than anything else.
When in doubt, call the professionals.
May be related to Artistic License - Biology
. See also Artistic License - Pharmacology
The following examples do not fit the subtropes:
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- A banner ad that says "Low white blood cell counts can put you at risk for neutropenia." Neutropenia means you have a low count of a specific type of blood cell, so, yeah, that's exactly correct and completely useless.
- In DC's latest reboot, Superman performs surgery on Lois Lane to save her from a gunshot wound. And he does every step past the obvious one of using his X-Ray vision as wrong as he can. He starts by putting gloves on—and then immediately cutting a hole in them for the only part he actually touches her◊. Then instead of removing the bullet, he uses his heat vision to vaporize it and then uses that same supervision to cauterize the wound shut◊. The writer is apparently unaware that heating lead to the point of vaporizing it would have cooked Lois from the inside out, and that cauterizing a wound is not the same thing as welding metal together—it isn't a quick healing that doesn't leave a scar so much as it is a fast way to seal bleeding wounds, and cauterizing two pieces of skin like that would ensure they don't heal together at all.
- Terminator Salvation includes a character getting impaled through the chest, which requires a heart transplant to fix. This is a huge medical fail because there is no trauma that would require this. If the heart is not punctured, he does not require a new heart. If the heart is punctured, he would be instantly dead. It's one or the other, and there is nothing in between. The fact that there is no mention of infection, compatibility, rejection, or just the fact that it's a hard to accomplish procedure even in a non-collapsed society with functioning hospitals, makes it even worse.
- This is mostly due to Executive Meddling. In the original ending John Connor dies and Marcus Wright takes his face and identity to continue his legacy. Something at least marginally plausible given known terminator technology.
- Oblivion 2013 Julia is shot in the abdomen hard not to hit part of the digestive system there, and that's usually fatal even with modern medicine, and it's a long time (in emergency medicine time) between getting shot and the person bringing medical attention. And of course, in the end, all Jack has to do is get the bullet out. However the medical technology of the time is so amazing that Julia later is more than willing to have sex and get pregnant that night.
Live Action TV
- Real-life surgeons are very reluctant to cut half a person's brain out. TV surgeons, on both House and Grey's Anatomy, are more relaxed about performing hemispherectomies.
- House often features chemotherapeutic drugs as a single "chemo" chemical that you just give a patient to kill any cancer that might be anywhere in the body. In reality, chemo can use alkylating agents, antimetabolites, anthracyclines, plant alkaloids, topoisomerase inhibitors, or any number of other chemicals, and it all depends on the specific type of tumor.
- Interestingly enough, there's often multiple treatments for the same type of tumor, depending on allergic reactions and bodily tolerance. (read: some are more toxic than others, and God help you if you turn out to be allergic.)
- In one episode of House, we see a patient ripping out his cochlear implant — cue spurting blood and frantic attempts to save his life. In real life, the external parts of the device (the microphone and speech processor) are held on magnetically, with the actual implant itself safely under the skin. Deaf people and hearing itinerants remove them all the time. It's the equivalent of someone dying by removing their glasses. note
- The series has repeatedly shown the OR with dark, dramatic lighting. While there are some cases note where this would happen, the truth is that OR rooms are brightly lit in the majority of cases.
- The series has confused CT and MRI machines on more than one occasion, and they show x-rays on film being hung on lightboxes, even though the majority of hospitals have switched to digital x-rays. They've also shown the doctors taking CT scans, drawing blood, and doing the lab work themselves. In reality, these jobs would be done by technologists and technicians, as doctors simply don't have the time or knowledge of how to use the equipment.
- Grey's Anatomy. In the second part of the bomb episodes in season two, all Addison Montgomery can do for Miranda Bailey—who is extremely distraught about her husband being in surgery next to the might-explode-at-any-second bomb—is tell her the baby could die if she doesn't push. Offering support and encouragement and taking charge is apparently something only interns do. And in the season three premiere, with the preemie who was left in a trash can at a high school, and the four girls who could have been the mother? All they had to do was give them a regular pee on a stick pregnancy test. The pregnancy hormone, hCG, stays in the blood for up to six weeks after birth.
- The Legend Of William Tell; Will goes hypothermic after wandering around a mountain for a while. Well, sort of. (He can speak, walk with help, and is more or less fine after one night under a cloak.)
- On Stargate Universe, one character donates a kidney to another. The location of the scar on the donor's belly suggests that they accidentally transplanted his spleen instead, as a donated kidney is best extracted from the lower back, not the front.
- Stargate SG-1 had a minor case with pathology in "The Broca Divide", the episode where SG-1 and -3 accidentally bring back a disease that causes humans to regress to a primitive mental state. Leaving aside whether it's physically possible for a disease to do this, the goof came when Dr. Fraiser referred to the organism causing the disease as a virus that feeds on histamine. This allowed them to cure it with massive doses of allergy meds, starving the disease. Viruses do not feed on anything: they use cells to replicate, plain and simple, so antihistamines would have had absolutely no effect had it actually been a virus. She also refers to it as a "parasitic virus". Viruses are parasitic by definition.