Sex, suicide and surgical blues: getting under the skin of Grey’s Anatomy

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I’d always hoped that one day I’d finally get to grips with the contents of Gray’s Anatomy. Perhaps then I’d be able to write the sort of blog my friend Babette- a sport’s physician- would like me to write. To quote Babette, she’d like me to write something “simple, like sports, or the athlete’s heart, or sudden cardiac death, something simple.” So for you, Babette, here’s hoping that a heart stopping picture of Patrick Dempsey and some thoughts on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy will hit the mark.

For those of you unfamiliar with TV’s latest hit medical drama, Patrick Dempsey plays the on/off love interest of Meredith Grey, a would-be surgeon now well into her second year of postgraduate training. Meredith came to medicine relatively late in life- thirty-something I’d guess- and soon finds herself sleeping with her boss Derek Shepherd. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the apparent perfection of said Dr Shepherd, Grey seems determined to make the most of the opportunities offered by surgical internship for misery and angst, assiduously avoiding the opportunity for happiness offered by this fundamentally simple and loving soul.

Being an American medical drama everyone spends all their (clothed) time in surgical blues, and being a medical drama there’s plenty of sex to ensure that isn’t all of the time. And of course there’s lots of stuff about patients and dramatic interventions and the highs and lows of medical success and failure. There’s also a welcome dose of black humour, not least when it comes to Grey’s thoughts on what it takes to make it through each day. Grey is the narrator for each episode, talking us through her own emerging insights into life, medicine, and what it takes to survive both. Faced with a surgical trial where patient after patient dies, the emotional baggage of a father who rejected her and a brilliant but abusive mother, and the realisation that she’s on a self-destruct course, Grey tells her audience not to waste time wondering why it is that people lose their sanity but ¬†instead to marvel at the fact that some don’t.

Medical dramas aren’t really about medicine of course but are instead a powerful, sexy, and dramatic way to cut to the heart of the matter- literally and metaphorically-of what matters to people: love, security, hope, and the illusion of at least some certainty. Not to forget sex and a bit of fantasy for good measure. Oh and the chance to laugh and to dance every now and then. Pretty simple really, if not all that heart stopping. But like I say, if you want heart-stopping just have another look at the picture of Patrick Dempsey. After all, the best way to brush up on your anatomy must surely be to choose a body and study it very very carefully.

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