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Lancet. 1996 May 4;347(9010):1240-3.

Television entertainment and the US health-care debate.

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Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Some experts on the media say that entertainment can be more successful than news at providing insights into certain institutions, medicine being a good example. US television series that feature physicians as the central characters have been immensely popular. In the early series, dating back to the 1952 debut of City Hospital, the physician was an all-powerful hero working in a sparkling centre of healing, with medicine portrayed as a resource freely available to all. The programmes began to change in the 1970s. Plots centred more around the physicians' personal problems than on the patients, but economic and health-policy issues were still rarely discussed adequately. In the end, what viewers come away with may lead them towards false expectations, and they may increasingly blame doctors for decisions that others make and enforce.

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