Posted by: mzbitca | November 6, 2008

This may sound mean but….

I just had a really hard time feeling bad for Dr. Cuddy on House this week.  I was worried how they would play this episode with Cuddy looking to adopt a baby and the birth mother possibly having some complications.  TV shows have a tendency of showing women who are looking into adoption as relatively unstable and obsessive so I was worried about that. I was not prepared for the way they had Dr. Cuddy completely try to control a women’s right to her own body and to make her feel guilty for her life and her decisions.

The episode starts with Cuddy meeting the birth mother at a coffee shop and talking about themselves. The mother has a rash and Cuddy is concerned so she asks tells her she is coming to the hospital to get checked out.  After forcing more tests on her without asking her opinion, it is discovered that the fetus’s lungs are underdeveloped. The birthmother inquires if it is due to her meth use early in the pregnancy. When she learns it might be she starts crying and responds that Dr. Cuddy must be so mad at her. Cuddy’s response is to say nothing and walk away. They then discover that they have the option of having a c-section, which the child might not survive,  or attempt to wait and the mother could die.  The pregnant woman does not want to wait and risk her life and Cuddy, in a huge ethical breach, tries to convince her to wait.  The woman apologizes but says that she has sacrificed enough but she does not want to possibly sacrifice her life. They perform the C-section where Cuddy stands observing. The baby ends up surviving however, the birth mother changes her mind and decides that she wants to keep the baby because it is what she thinks she needs in her life. Cuddy than attempts to try and TALK HER OUT OF IT.  The woman refuses and Cuddy ends up crying in the nursery she had prepared and telling House that she is tired and can’t do this emotional ride anymore.

Whether the writers of House intended to or not this episode was a great testimony about privilege and how it can corrupt a normally positive concept like adoption.  Cuddy runs an entire hospital and obviously has a lot of money so she does what most rich white people do when they want to adopt, which is to try to get a baby that’s as fresh as possible. Heaven forbid they adopt one that is already a year old. 

Then, throughout the entire episode, Cuddy acts completely insensitive to the birthmother’s autonomy and rights.  You get the impression that as far as she is concerned the baby is already hers and this whole being carried by another women is just a huge inconvenience.  She violates ethical guidelines when she tries to guilt the woman into risking her life, makes her feel guilty for past behavior, and then tries to talk her out of keeping her baby.  Then, in the end, we are supposed to feel bad for Cuddy because it’s just so hard for her and she can’t do it anymore.

This bugs me because there are plenty of children out their that need to be adopted but this instance, like in many tv shows, where people need to have one with the umbilical cord still attached bugs the hell out of me.  It is an option that is only available to richer individuals and it creates a situation where they are not just adopting a baby. They are adopting a specific baby and wanting to have way more control over the process than should be possible.



  1. I’m totally with you, mzbitca, the ep disquieted me to no end. But I do think that the privilege thing was intentional, that we the audience were supposed to see Cuddy as behaving really badly. My sympathy level was low.

  2. I assumed so as well and the I went to Television without Pity expecting to hearing that voiced and found the writer had completely taken Cuddy’s side. I was pretty shocked that anyone could see it as anything but Cuddy steamrolling over this poor woman because Cuddy felt she was “owed” a baby

  3. Really? Oh, that’s appalling. Pity that their intent didn’t come out in the result…

  4. I watched this episode and I kept thinking that something felt so wrong about it but I couldn’t express what. You are right it was the privilege all over the place. Cuddy could not consider an older child, or one of a different race. I also didn’t like the shaming of the mother when she said that she didn’t want to risk her life. It was like telling all women they we exist to be birth vessels and if we chose not to follow this biological imperative we are less than somehow.

  5. To be honest, I haven’t seen the episode, but based on other story lines in this show that have had to deal with childbearing and pregnancy, this comes as little surprise.

    Mostly, I’m annoyed that they went there. Especially in reinforcing this whole “single career woman desperate to be a mother at any cost” meme in the character of Cuddy. Why the hell can’t there be a single woman with a career who is not depicted as an emotional wreck jumping to the tick of her biological clock?

  6. I felt that watching that episode. It reeked of privilege of the rich white woman getting what she wants b/c some poor girl made a trashy mistake…

    but what disturbed me more were the ethical “dilemmas” that Cuddy and House were left discussing.

    Disturbing, b/c it is too close to home, that sometimes doctors care more about the fetus growing inside of the woman than the woman who is actually that doctor’s patient (am I being clear?). Until that fetus is no longer depending on that woman for life and blood the woman is the doctor’s patient, not the fetus (unless the doctor happens to be a Ped). Cuddy’s decision in that situation was obviously a case of a conflict of interest. Cuddy should not have been allowed to make decisions involving the mother and fetus’ life. Now, I don’t remember, but in one of his snarky moments, I believe House told her that they should deliver the baby, which, in all seriousness would have been the right call. There are some other complicated details there, but there is a serious tendency for doctors to act as though the mother is a disposable incubator, and those are the ones that aren’t waiting to take the babies home for themselves.

  7. I also agree that we were meant to see Cuddy’s behavior as bad, WRT the way she exerted her privilege and authority over that young woman (and even over other doctors, as she slightly abused her authority a few times during the episode). I don’t believe we were meant to be overly sympathetic to her.

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