5 Social Issues Grey’s Anatomy Highlights

Grey’s Anatomy is known for its dramatic storylines, unexpected plot twists and of course, steamy encounters between doctors in on-call rooms. Over the years, Grey’s fans have become invested in the lives of the doctors at Grey-Sloan Memorial. While viewers have come to expect a heavy dose of drama, this long-running TV show has also begun to feature critical social and political issues at the forefront of every episode. These are some societal problems Grey’s Anatomy has used its platform to highlight (while still giving us all the drama we need):


1. Domestic Abuse

In the season 12 episode “Family Matters,” the show reveals that resident Jo Wilson is in hiding from her abusive ex-husband, Paul. Paul makes an appearance in the episode titled “1-800-799-7233” (the number of the domestic abuse hotline). There, he brings with him his new fiancee Jenny, whom he is also abusing. Jo and Jenny discuss the abuse to which Paul subject them, and they both decide to free themselves from him forever. The ordeal ends when Paul dies in an attempt to attack Jo. This Grey’s episode sheds light on the abuse inflicted on millions of women every year. Hopefully, it will play a role in ending domestic abuse altogether.


2. Police Bias

In the moving episode “Personal Jesus,” a twelve-year-old black boy named Eric was brought in with a gunshot wound. He had gotten shot when a police saw him trying to enter a house through a window. Although Eric is unarmed, the police insist on keeping him handcuffed throughout his treatment. They also justify the shooting by saying that “the suspect” was trying to break into the house. Truth is, Eric lived in the house; he had locked himself out and was trying to get back inside. He died shortly after from complications that came with the gunshot wound. Following Eric’s death, a furious Dr. Kepner tells the police “a little boy was at home when your fellow officer shot and killed him,” emphasizing the fatal consequences of police bias.


3. Transgender Rights

Several recent Grey’s episodes have brought trans issues to light. In “1-800-799-7233,” Dr. Bailey tries save the hospital computer system from hackers; he recruits the help of intern Casey Parker, who had worked in cyber-security in the air force. As they work, Parker reveals he had been convicted of hacking a federal server. Bailey is alarmed initially, but Parker later explains he only did it because the DMV wouldn’t change the gender of his driver’s license from female to male. “I'm a proud trans man, Dr. Bailey, but I like for people to get to know me before they find out my private medical history,” he tells Bailey; Bailey responds by thanking him for his service. Grey's depicts Parker as more than a transgender character, something that is sorely lacking on most TV shows.


4. Health Care for Women of Color

Given creator Shonda Rhimes’ tendency to kill off beloved characters without any warning, fans were worried when they saw Dr. Bailey's heart attack in the episode “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Bailey went to Seattle Presbyterian Hospital for treatment, but she had to fight for the treatment she knows she needs because her doctors, all of whom are white men, refuse to take the severity of her condition seriously. She rebuttals them by saying informing them that 70 percent of women who experience heart attacks have no previous symptoms;  African American women, in particular, are most at risk. Still, the doctors continue to dismiss her on the basis of her OCD diagnosis. It takes Dr. Pierce coming to Seattle Presbyterian to provide treatment for Dr. Bailey herself. By that point, the damage was far more extensive than it would've been if Bailey’s doctors had listened to her in the first place.


5. Hijabi Women

The new group of interns in season 14 of Grey’s Anatomy includes Dr. Dahlia Qadri, who is the first recurring character to wear a hijab on the show. Muslim characters on TV are too often featured in stories about national security or terrorism; it's therefore so important that Dr. Qadri is featured in normal, everyday situations. For example, she made her crush on Dr. Avery well-known when she calls him attractive instead of talented (we would have done the same thing). In the episode “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” Qadri uses her hijab as a tourniquet to save a young boy, telling Dr. Hunt her hijab “is a symbol of my faith, but my faith is about service and compassion.” There are so many stereotypes and misinformation surrounding hijabs and Islam; hopefully, this line was able to rectify some of them.


Grey’s Anatomy is increasingly bringing awareness to the issues plaguing our society, and so far they've been successful. TV shows have the potential to spark much needed change; hopefully, other shows, too, will follow the example of Grey’s soon. Watch Grey’s Anatomy at 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays to see what other social issues the show is focusing on.