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"If You Must Be Hospitalized, Television Is Not the Place"

Why do people think there are so many deaths in the ER? Perhaps because that’s how it looks on television. For a research paper called “If You Must Be Hospitalized, Television Is Not the Place,” the Israeli communications scholar Amir Hetsroni analyzed one season’s worth of the U.S. hospital dramas ER, Chicago Hope, and Grey’s Anatomy. It turned out that TV patients were drastically more likely to die in the hospital than real-life patients. They were also more likely to be young, seriously injured white men (preferably good-looking ones). Consider some details.

I ran into an old friend the other day whose actor husband is a regular on the TV show House. We caught up on friends and family, etc., including a few mutual acquaintances who have died since we last spoke. As we parted, I couldn’t help but laugh: at least these unfortunate deaths, I thought, were nowhere near as numerous as those on the kind of TV show her husband appears on. The chart at right is from p. 80 of the illustrated SuperFreakonomics.