Get a medical perspective on every episode
Are You Your Sister's Keeper?
If you watch our show closely, you'll realize it's not the medical treatments that make Private Practice different than other shows on television; rather, it's the ethical debates surrounding the myriad decisions our doctors need to make every week.
I am very partial to the fourteenth episode of the season, "Too Much," because not only was I the researcher, I was also the writer (cue fireworks and miscellaneous New Year's Eve sounds). In this episode, we deal with a number of different issues, but the one that I want to talk about is the unexpected arrival of CORINNE (played by the lovely Anika Noni Rose), who we soon discover is Sam's long-lost sister.
As the episode unfolds, we find out that Corinne disappeared 20-years-earlier, and for many of those years, Sam thought she was dead. So when he gets a phone call (in episode 513) telling him his sister is just being released from jail and needs somebody to pick her up, of course he's filled with mixed emotions – he's happy she's alive, angry that she didn't call him in all this time, and more than a little conflicted about what he's supposed to do with her as Corinne suffers from a severe case of rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This brings us to this week's ethical debate:
Is one obligated to take care of a thought to be dead, mentally ill sibling that they haven't seen in 20 years?
Although some cases of bipolar disorder can be managed with medication, the version that Corinne has is of the severest variety. People who suffer from bipolar disorder tend to have higher "highs" than most people followed by lower "lows." One week, victims of this disorder feel on top of the world and other weeks, they can barely get out of bed. In Corinne's case, her rapid cycling version of this disorder means she can be on the highest of highs one day, and the lowest of lows the next. And, unfortunately, if left unchecked, this roller coaster of emotion can lead somebody to have a psychotic break.
How is Sam supposed to deal with this? He hasn't seen Corinne in over two decades. She's missed his graduation from medical school, his marriage to Naomi, the births of his daughter and his granddaughter, his relationship with Addison and many, many other life events. Is Sam supposed to just drop everything and take care of somebody who didn't even bother telling him that she was alive? The others in the practice are concerned -- most notably Sheldon, who feels that Sam might be getting in over his head.
That all being said, Sam decides to take his sister in (did you really expect anything less?), and over the course of the next few episodes, we'll see how that decision turns out.
But based on what you've seen so far in this episode, do you think Sam made the right decision?