'Grey's Anatomy': School Shooters Are People First

Jeanne Sager

Grey's Anatomy castGrey's Anatomy came back from the holiday break and the doctors at Seattle Grace/Mercy West ushered us into the new year with some moral ambiguity to chew on courtesy of a Virginia Tech-style school shooting: should the rights of the patient really come first? Any patient?

With the school shooting in Omaha, and the rights of the shooter in mind, it couldn't have been any more timely. Let me back up (spoiler alerts abound). To prove Cristina Yang has finally recovered from the post-traumatic stress of the mass shooting at Seattle Grace that was last season's cliffhanger, Shonda Rhimes and crew plan another shooting; this time at a college campus. And Yang just so happens to be down the street when it happens, "touring" the town like the tourist she never had time to be. So what's a woman with surgery in her blood who is still recovering from major psychological trauma to do when she sees a load of ambulances screaming past her?

Run after them and start ordering EMS works around! Duh. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Yang's new hubby and trauma doc extraordinaire Ethan Owen Hunt is rallying the troops to accept a ton of ambulances full of shooting victims. Just as they seem to be holding it together, despite the fresh memories, Chief Webber decides it's time to remind them these people are now part of the family because they've been through a similar tragedy.

Little Grey bursts out into tears, and the rest of the crew looks like someone just announced it's Santa Claus with a gun shot wound coming in on that bus. Instead it's Yang, with her hand inside a gun shot victim's chest who comes out of the ambulance. Yang is back! For realsies. Let the "everyone spend more time checking on the doctor's health than the patient's game" begin!

The Cristina doesn't want to be a doctor anymore story arc was stale from the first time we saw Dr. Hard Ass cry, so seeing her back in the OR was gift numero uno of 2011 from the Grey's Anatomy gang. They were doing actual medicine! Dealing with actual medical conundrums. 

First up: new pediatrics guy Dr. Stark wants to cut off a 15-year-old victim's leg because, well, he seems to like being an ass. Karev calls on Arizona Robbins (she's baaack) to help him save the kid's leg because it can be done. The words "first do no harm" start bouncing around in your head. The patients' rights prevail, Robbins and Callie Torres save the leg.

Next up: there's a cop on the table who is unconscious, but his boss really needs to talk to him to get some good intel on the identity of the shooter. He begs Webber to wake the good officer up, even though the chief warns the kid will be in agony from the pain. Webber reverses the guy's pain meds, and he tells all. The rights of the patient are put on hold; the needs of all -- in this case figuring out who the heck shot up a school -- come first.

Which leads to the operating room where Yang is finally back in action, working with Teddy Altman and Jackson Avery to repair the heart of the same guy whose chest she cracked open in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Everything is going as well as it can in an OR until Webber arrives, fresh from the cop's room, and starts asking questions. Was the patient wearing a green hoodie when he came in? Does he happen to have red hair?

Oh, let's just spell it out for you: Yang, the doctor who has been going batshit since a guy shot up her hospital, has had her hands in the heart of the guy who just shot up a college campus. Yowza.

Welcome to moral ambiguity. There are 20-some patients outside the room in need of help. There aren't enough operating rooms to accommodate the people. And it's going to take the rest of the day to save this creep? Avery and a nurse are gone faster than you can say Hippocratic oath, but Yang (and Altman) is in it for the long haul.

It's not surprising because in the end, she's a doctor. That's what they do. Whether it's repairing a wound made by a shiv on a convicted felon with a prison guard escort or delivering a baby for a woman who reeks of booze, their job is to treat first, make moral judgments later.

We need to be able to trust our doctors, to know that what we tell them isn't going to make them turn tail and ignore us. If a sexually active teen comes in for birth control, she can't be faced with a doctor whose prescription pad is clouded by personal religious beliefs. If a sexual fetishist comes into the ER with a gerbil up his behind, he needs to know someone will take it out. The patient isn't always right, but the patient always has rights.

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Image via ABC

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