In last week’s Parenthood episode, “Everything Is Not Ok,” Kristina and Adam visit a doctor for a consultation on her breast cancer. The doctor makes them wait two hours and when they finally get in to see him, he’s curt, dismissive and answers two phone calls during their visit.
This episode touched on today’s reality that waiting to see a doctor can take a long time, especially once you’re already in the waiting room. I’ve joked to my friends that those waiting to see a doctor are called “patients” because of the incredible amount of patience they need to have before they actually get to see one. But if, once you’re in, you are made to feel that you’re just another piece in a long assembly line, then visiting a doctor becomes another source of stress instead of a moment of relief to a person who desperately needs it.
Back to Parenthood, Kristina and Adam do not feel comfortable with the doctor’s behavior and look for another one. They meet with a warm/fuzzy type who listens to her, takes real interest in how she’s coping, and tells her that while she’s in for a rough year, she’s going to make it. Kristina and Adam are both visibly relieved.
By the end of the episode, however, Kristina decides to go with the rude doctor after a fellow cancer patient explains to her that the phone calls he answers are from other patients, and that Kristina doesn’t need a friend, that she needs to get the cancer out.
I had a really hard time with this episode. Countless studies have shown how a person’s mental/emotional state plays a major role in the healing process. Personally, I’ve switched doctors because I couldn’t get clear explanations from them, because I felt rushed when I spoke to them and, yes, even for having answered phone calls during my visit.
I had a real problem with this Parenthood episode equating gruffness with competence (after all we are not talking about Dr. House). But I had an even bigger problem that they equated kindness with incompetence. To add insult to injury, the gruff/competent doctor was a man and the warm, fuzzy doctor was a woman. I’m not the type to be looking out for instances of racism, sexism or any other “ism” when I watch tv shows, but I feel that this episode fell into cliches that it could have easily avoided.
To wrap this up: would I rather have a competent doctor than a kind one? Absolutely. But if I can have both, I won’t settle for less. No one should , especially someone who gets diagnosed with a fatal disease. Yes, I know that this is a tv show, but tv shows, especially those about families and relationships, parallel real life situations and often influence us in a variety of ways including our personal decisions. For the writers of Parenthood to have Kristina make the choice that she made is definitely not ok, at least not with me.