This week’s episode of the Fox TV drama House, M.D., "One Day, One Room," featured some interesting discussion of religion and abortion. Here are a few relevant paragraphs from the episode summary on the Fox House, M.D. site:
Cuddy lets House know that Eve [a pregnant rape victim House is treating] is pregnant. He breaks the news to the girl, then offers her the chance to terminate it. Eve isn’t interested because she considers abortion to be murder. House asks her if she wants to take a walk outside to get some air. . . .
House and Eve sit in a park watching people jog by. They continue their philosophical discussion. Eve argues that eternity is what we live for, and House believes that our time on Earth is all we have. Eve refuses to believe that because then there are no ultimate consequences. She needs the comfort of knowing that this all means something.
Eve wonders if her attacker feels remorse for his actions. House asks why that matters. He then inquires why she trusts him. Eve explains that there’s something about him, as if he is hurt too. House confesses that his story was true. Yet it wasn’t his grandmother but his father who abused him. Eve begins to acknowledge what happened to her to House.
Back at the hospital, House informs Cuddy that Eve terminated her pregnancy and has been discharged from the hospital.
It’s a very interesting philosophical discussion as it plays out in the scenes discussed here, and I think it’s fairly realistic that Eve ultimately decides to abort the child. It’s tragic, but life is full of such things. All in all, it’s a very intelligently done and interesting episode.
The USA Network replays each new House, M.D. episode a couple of weeks after its initial appearance on Fox, so you’ll have a chance to see this one soon—it’s appearing on USA on Friday, February 9, at 11 p.m. EST.
In the meantime, you might wish to take a look at my National Review Online article on the show’s first season, in which I point out that it treated religion in a sympathetic, sophisticated way. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Last week’s episode of House, M.D. took a somewhat different approach, as is probably appropriate to Fox’s more "edgy" programming style. The disease victim who comes in for treatment by the diagnostic team headed by Dr. Gregory House, the cranky, cynical genius doctor played by Hugh Laurie, is a nun, and immediately House is both rude toward her and dismissive of her faith. In addition, one of the team members — the handsome young Englishman Dr. Robert Chase — says explicitly, "I hate nuns."
Having set up this open hostility toward religion, however, the program then goes about systematically demolishing it. First, the good-natured young Dr. Eric Foreman makes it clear that he disagrees with Dr. Chase. Then, it becomes evident that Dr. House has quite possibly misplaced his faith in his own powers of diagnosis. The nuns, for their part, show surprising insights into the doctors’ minds.
In this regard, the faithful women are portrayed as far more complex and intelligent than one might have expected. Both their ideas and their personal histories are quite sophisticated, and in the case of the one stricken by illness, the revelations of her many past sins show not hypocrisy but the redemptive power of religious faith. The nuns argue quite evenly with Dr. House, and though he usually wins through the sheer force of his great intellect and even greater will, the emptiness in his soul becomes increasingly clear. His doubts in his own abilities suggest that for this man, science is not enough.
The full article is available here.
Lars, I didn’t see the episode, either, but that is a fascinating point. We don’t tend to choose careers or make other choices in life based on how it will affect our chances at developing a strong family. On the contrary, we tend to do what we want and make family conform to that.
Thanks, Lars. I didn’t see that one and will try to catch it in rerun some time.
Last night’s episode was interesting. A major theme was the importance of family, and they used an exotic form of family (Romani or Gypsies) to illustrate it. The young male patient turned down an offer to help him get into a medical career, explaining, “I don’t see any rings on any of your fingers.” Perhaps that wasn’t fair to doctors in general, but it was an interesting way to look at the characters in this series.
That’s the right question, Hunter, and I don’t see any evidence that the show is proselytizing for his approach to life. Quite the contrary, I should say, in that everybody on the show, good or bad, sick or well, hates everything about him but his spectacular talent.
Think about it this way. If Dr. Gregory House were exactly as he is in the program, but were a strongly assertive Christian instead of aggressively atheistic, wouldn’t you be furious at Fox?
That tells me that we should indeed be happy with this show.
House is a mess, but I wonder whether the comment is that any sane person would react to the meaningless of life the way he does.
I’m torn about this. I love the “House” series, but I’ve got them on probation this season. I’m not sure where they’re taking the characters, and only time will tell.
In the dark hours of the night, I suspect that they noticed some of the approving comments they got from Evangelicals, and determined to nip that nonsense in the bud.
Hunter, I think you’re reading negativity into it on the assumption that the producers must agree with House. Yet they often clearly see his actions as wrong in many episodes, so we cannot assume that they approve of him here. For counter-evidence, note the following. The young lady with whom he was arguing made some very good arguments indeed, and was very smart, appealing, and relentless. She defeated House by forcing him to engage in a conversation in which he did not want to go, and by forcing him to tell her something true and painful about himself. We surmise that she will move on and recover from a tragic and postentially destructive incident. House, on the other hand, remains a mess, and the only thing that improved his chances in life in this episode came from this very young lady you think he bested. I think that the producers knew all this and intended it. Why should we think otherwise when the internal evidence of the episode shows this?
I disagree with you about this one. I happened to see the episode in question and had a very different reaction. What I saw was House as the exemplar of the tough-minded atheist/agnostic arguing with someone who essentially used religion as a crutch. It’s a mismatch and of course, House ends up the victor. Score one for Enlightenment.
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