Soapy Science: When Doctors Attack

Welcome to episode one of season thirteen, which also happens to be episode one of my attempt to chronicle Grey’s Anatomy in real time.

When we left off last season, Jo, Alex, and DeLuca had gotten themselves into a silly, easily solved predicament; Amelia warmed up her cold, cold feet and married Owen; poor April had to undergo emergency C-section under unusual circumstances, as per Grey’s tradition (has anybody ever just straight-up had a baby on this show?); Meredith, Riggs, and Maggie entered the sort of obtuse love triangle that always leaves one poor sap out in the cold; and Arizona found a way to repair the awfulness of season 12’s custody battle.

So this season opener had a lot of loose dramatic ends to pick up, and not a lot of time left for science. At least everyone survived the hiatus this time. April made it through her traumatic delivery, and DeLuca is battered but ok.

Although his career is in jeopardy, and you can imagine that for someone who has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a medical education and then dedicated the better part of his 20’s to his work, a shattered career is far from ok.

What a nightmare for him. And for Alex too, although his nightmare is earned.

The episode leaves off suggesting that both surgeons face the possibility of being barred from ever practicing medicine again, although for very different reasons.

So, I did some research. What happens to a disabled surgeon? And can a doctor with a criminal record really lose his or her license?

Let’s start with the second question. If you have a criminal record and you want to get a license, your chances of being approved depend on what state you’re in. Each state has different laws, regulations, and standards. I was about to write that registered sex offenders are always denied, but then I came across this case in Florida (naturally.)

Still, most of what came up when I Googled “doctor charged with assault loses license” were cases of sexual impropriety. Most were cases of doctors touching or abusing patients. I didn’t really see anything about a drunken fight getting anyone kicked out of medicine, but it seems possible.

A healthcare recruiter wrote on her blog that a doctor’s career can be stifled by “crimes that aren’t directly related to the practice of medicine but to patterns of behavior that suggest a ‘moral unfitness to practice medicine.'” That can include DUIs, domestic abuse, theft, dogfighting (people still dogfight?), even tax evasion, she writes.

So, what it sounds like to me is that the decision over Alex’s career is in the hands of the hospital. Since it’s a hospital he co-owns and since Justin Chambers reportedly signed a contract to last through all of Season 13 at least, I think he’ll be just fine.

OK, now on to disabled doctors. It might seem obvious that a one-eyed surgeon would have trouble operating, but what about all the robotic-assisted surgeries happening these days? Maybe DeLuca could supervise a robotic operator at some point in the near future. Doesn’t Grey-Sloan have a Da Vinci?

It looks like issues over disabilities discrimination in the medical field are as problematic and complex as any other workplace. This medical student in New York, a chief resident in a surgical program, was paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal infection (terrifying) and then told she wouldn’t be able to resume her place in her residency program because, according to the New York Post article, “they didn’t have the ‘clinical capacity’ to take her back.”

Other workplaces are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make reasonable accommodations, so why not hospitals? Aren’t there surgeries she could do seated? I’m actually really interested to see how this case plays out (the resident is suing) because its outcome depends on what’s possible, currently, in the field of medicine (like, will her lawyer bring up robotic-assisted surgery? I’m like a dog with a bone with this robot stuff.)

So I think DeLuca’s future might still be bright, whatever happens to his eye. Giacomo Gianniotti has, frustratingly, not made his contract public so we don’t know for sure how certain his future is. Honestly, I won’t miss him much if the writers ship him out. He’s kind of like the male version of Jo, meaning I think he only exists as a romantic device for a more interesting character. I think this episode showed that clearly: they’re both so boring that the writers got them together only to give Alex a new storyline.

I guess that about wraps it up this week. Let’s cross our fingers that the show gets back to its usual parade of case studies next season. And more Callie. And less Jo. Seeya next week!

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