Huntington's Disease on 'House': Would You Take the Ominous Test?

House M.D.There was no super-bizarre mystery illness on the House M.D. premiere, and I should have known something was fishy.


Thirteen has gone rogue, and it's all about that darn test for Huntington's disease that she took last season. A test that came back positive for the degenerative brain disorder.


TV shows love to throw Huntington's into the mix because it creates good drama when a character who may or may not have the disease -- it's hereditary, so the chances are always good that they've had to watch a parent go downhill -- faces the big question: do I take the test?

A few years back it was the WB's (now the CW's) teen hit Everwood, which forced teenage Hannah Rogers (Grey's Anatomy's Sarah Drew) to move to the small town of Everwood, Colorado, so she didn't have to watch her father live through the pain and suffering that accompanies the end stages of the disease. Will she test or won't she took up a serious chunk of time, a bit that was as much public service as it was part and parcel of the usual teen angsty focus of the show.

Now it's Thirteen on House.

So what is the big deal with the test?

Basically, it's a death sentence confirmed or denied. There is currently no cure or treatment for the disease, which slowly eats away at the brain, stealing a person's ability to walk, talk, and reason. Complications eventually result in a gruesome death -- you can literally choke to death with Huntington's.

With the genetic test that shows whether you have the markers for the disease, you can find out if that's your fate. According to the Huntington's Disease Society of America, "More than a quarter of a million Americans have HD or are 'at risk' of inheriting the disease from an affected parent."

Every kid with a Huntington's affected parent has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene. Not the best odds, and on House they didn't work out for Thirteen.

That she's run off is sort of no surprise. Because after the test, you're in a holding pattern. Unlike testing for, say, the breast cancer gene and responding by lopping off one's breasts to protect oneself, there is nothing you can do.

It's an untenable position. She's just a TV character, but I can't help feeling a little ache in my stomach knowing there are real people dealing with this. I didn't even want to have tests done for diseases affecting my unborn baby -- unless they were things the doctor could fix in utero.

Would you take the test?


Image via FOX

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