House, the medical drama airing on Fox on Tuesday nights, is not known for social conservatism. But the April 3 episode featured a moving and timely pro-life storyline that deserves recognition.
The drama centered on a woman, 21 weeks pregnant, who suffers a stroke and is admitted to the hospital. In typical House fashion, it takes some time for the conclusive diagnosis to be made by the dour Dr. Gregory House, whose love of life would rank near the bottom on any scale. House's obscure diagnosis is Maternal Mirror Syndrome, a condition in which a developing fetus slowly dies and kills the mother as well.
Dr. House never takes a pro-life stance in the story. When the tests indicate that the mother will die if the baby is left to develop, he strongly suggests abortion. All of the doctors agree except Dr. Cuddy, the chief of staff. Like the mother in jeopardy, Dr. Cuddy is also single, and is undergoing in vitro fertilization to have her own baby.
The mother is adamant that the baby not be aborted, but the doctors tell her that a 21-week-old fetus is not viable, and she will not survive another couple of weeks to allow the baby's lungs to develop.
It is here that fiction touches on reality. Because, in fact, less than a year ago a 21-week old baby was delivered and survived. Baby Amillia Taylor was plastered on TV screens around the country in February, four months after her premature birth, when she was deemed healthy enough to go home.
The story reaches its climax in the operating room. House operates on the baby in utero to figure out what is causing it to kill its mother. When House opens the uterus the baby's hand emerges and grasps House's finger. Here is another nod to a real pro-life story: USA Today featured a photo of a baby's hand grasping a surgeon's finger back in 1999, when
The crusty Dr. House is visibly moved. He has called the developing child a fetus and a parasite, but he never called it a baby.
The miracle of modern medicine allowed Baby Amillia to survive in real life. In the House episode, the same miracle, combined with the chutzpah of Dr. House, saves both mother and baby. House has not had a change of heart. He tells the mother that if he'd had his way her pregnancy would have been terminated. But it wasn't. The writers of House chose to preserve and promote life – at least for one hour in prime time. For that they deserve a rousing cheer.