Grey’s Anatomy is a fictional TV show depicting the social and hospital lives of doctors while addressing societal issues. In season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy, the writers tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as it applies to the doctors, hospital, and patient populations featured in the show. Grey’s Anatomy has a historical past of approaching social justice issues and inequalities by writing them into the storyline of the doctors and the patients as they relate to health outcomes. In season 17, many of the patients and physicians on the show contract COVID and their experience with the virus and the struggles it presents in their lives represent the struggles many face in the real world.
The show showcases injustices that occur within healthcare and as a result of the virus. In the episode ‘Sorry Doesn’t Always Make it Right,’ one of the wealthy physicians volunteers in a testing tent and offers his credit card to pay for hotels for patients who test positive but live in group homes or are homeless. Although this seems generous, one of the interns informs him that this isn’t helpful to marginalized groups because they will have no where to go after their quarantine and his ability to pay full price for rooms represents his privilege in comparison to charity groups who were bargaining for cheaper rates in order to help these people. Here, issues of inequality are addressed – patients don’t have access to the social tools they need. Privilege in relation to power is also explored and creates a conversation about minority groups, the care they receive, and how outsiders view them. This very much relates to the concept of ‘other’ from our course. The show also addresses issues of racial injustice throughout the season based on police brutality and the shooting of a black man. This sparks a conversation amongst the doctors and forces them to question the system that affects their patients. The idea of inequality intersects as it explores race in relation to COVID and police brutality, showcasing differences between black and white patients and their outcomes.
The writers want us to check our own privilege and ask ourselves about our own acts: are they truly understanding of and helping fix the injustices that others face? They also prompt us to explore how injustices in social aspects of society impact areas of patient care and patient identity?