According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, TV hospital shows
are generally evenhanded in their treatment of pressing health policy and health
public policy issues such as patient's rights and managed care.
Most of those issues are not gone into in great depth, the study concluded,
though they try to avoid easy answers to complex questions, and most of the
issues deal with ethical questions (the 'right to die') rather than resources
(cost of health care, access).
The study also found that some of the most 'hotly' contested issues,
prescription drug coverage for the elderly was one cited, got short shrift.
The study of four dramas across the Big Three and cable's Lifetime, found
that NBC's ER, Lifetime's Strong Medicine, and the since-canceled
Gideon's Crossing on ABC and City of Angels on CBS were either
evenhanded (48%) in their treatment of the issues, or split evenly in their
leaning for or against the status quo (26% each way).
On average, 68% of the 2000-2001 episodes of the four shows dealt with health
policy issues, with ER leading the group at 77% of episodes.
Malpractice had bragging rights as the most frequently dealt-with issue.
According to the study, the shows 'ignored a raft of major public debates
about the uninsured, Medicare and Medicaid.'
The shows were generally mixed in their portrayals of the major players in
health policy debates, with the exceptions that lawyers, HMO's and insurance
companies got predominately negative treatment.
The study was presented at a Kaiser forum in Washington on