Private Practice Takes a Bold Stand Against Decent Behavior


Ookay. This week’s Private Practice was a fairly uncomfortable watch, and there was nothing outlandish enough to make it fun.

There’s a new doctor at Naomi’s practice, Dr. Fife, a genetic engineer who uses a wheelchair who pressures Naomi into agreeing to select for an embryo for two patients with dwarfism to allow them to created a baby who also has dwarfism. Naomi is reluctant but agrees until she learns that these embryos will also give the future baby a 40% chance of developing some kind of cancer (which Lauredhel over on FWD points out, is the baseline cancer risk for the US population).

The couple is upset and accuses Naomi of prejudice and she reveals that she was fat growing up, so she knows all about prejudice. She slams PC attempts to clean up language as unrealistic, and concludes that everyone has experience with prejudice. The couple agrees to have a tall baby.

Naomi also yells at the geneticist, who congratulates her for getting over her inhibitions about the wheelchair, and says he feels better knowing she used to be hugely fat.

Sooo… obviously this was problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, I don’t know if this is realistic controversy for people with dwarfism, but it reminded me of the controversies for Deaf parents who don’t want their kids to get cochlear implants (as seen on Scrubs). TV morals seem to come down on the side that you should make your child as “normal” as possible, but I think that’s pretty problematic. As the parents say, is it that far of a reach to designing your kid to not be black or gay? In a way this is different because it’s selecting *for* a trait, not against one, but I think the difference is mainly semantic.

Naomi’s treatment of Dr. Fine (played by Michael Thornton, who apparently is actually a real wheelchair user, one in the plus column) was pretty uncomfortable to watch, and I’m probably being naive to hope that a doctor would behave more naturally toward people with disabilities.

Naomi’s speech about PC language was really problematic, especially since so much of the episode she was “ironically” ranting about how Dr. Fife was a “little, little man” which was, I think, intended to indicate that any slight was obviously unintentional, but which really just highlighted the awkwardness. I don’t know where I come down in the PC debates. On the one hand, I’m certainly very uncomfortable with n-words and f-words and using “retarded” as a slur, but when it comes to more archaic words like “lame” I’m on the fence.

But I think no matter where you come down on the PC language debates, we can ALL agree that context is important, yes? So if you have two patients with dwarfism sitting in your office, even if you normally don’t avoid such words, it *might* be a good idea not to run around your office yelling “You’re a little, little man!” at a disliked co-worker.

I don’t like it when tv shows decide that formerly smart characters have to suddenly act really really stupid for plot purposes. It’s insulting to the audience and terribly awkward.



2 Responses to “Private Practice Takes a Bold Stand Against Decent Behavior”

  1. Sadako Says:

    “As the parents say, is it that far of a reach to designing your kid to not be black or gay? In a way this is different because it’s selecting *for* a trait, not against one, but I think the difference is mainly semantic.”

    I read a stat about how now that we have prenatal screening 90% of babies who would have Down Syndrome are now aborted. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Obviously it’s better not to have a child you wouldn’t want…and I am pro choice…still, I guess a little part of me feels some discomfort. How close to eugenics and perfect people and all that?

  2. Stef Says:

    I had a bigger problem with the fact that Naomi seems to have forgotten what patient confidentiality is now that she’s switched practices. It was fine for her to discuss the particulars of various patients with Sam and Addison et al when they were all a part of the same practice and presumably had consent from the patients to share their case files with the other doctors in the shared care practice. However, now that they are in completely separate practices, her ethics seem to have completely vaporized.

    Beyond that, regardless of who did the hiring, the fact remains that Naomi was/is Dr. Fife’s immediate supervisor and her treatment of him was absolutely deplorable and abusive. It would serve her right if she had to face a complaint about her behavior.

    But then, Cooper hasn’t had any negative fall-out from illegally and forcefully administering a vaccine to a screaming child while his mother screamed that she did not consent to it… *sigh*

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