The different worlds of TV medical dramas and real-life ICUs

Television characters survive cardiac arrests far more often than real patients. But medical fiction can provide both escape and education.

A Covid-19 patient lays in her isolation room being treated in the intensive care unit at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, on Aug 16, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS
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(NYTIMES) - When it is quiet in the intensive care unit (ICU), I escape into one of the call rooms. The air is stale and dry, the bed unmade. I take off my mask, angle the computer away from the tousled sheets and log onto Zoom, where a group of writers and producers is discussing another medical emergency.

A young man's heart has just stopped. The resident rushes to get the defibrillator but before he can, someone objects. It's a producer noting that the scene feels too predictable. We need something more, he says, maybe a medical mislead or an escalation to hook the viewers before the commercial break. He looks to me for guidance.

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