House MD--maternity

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EFL Movie Study Guide for: House MD, Maternity (season 1)


Introduction: In this episode, an epidemic breaks out in the baby ward. Babies are dying from an unusual infection, but the treatment is making them die from kidney failure. This show demonstrates the difficult decisions doctors must make, including how to tell someone their loved one is dying. It also touches on the overuse of antibiotics, and on the need for good hygiene among all hospital workers, from doctors to volunteers. (my version is 38 minutes)



Dr. House: Head of Diagnostic Medicine

Dr. Cameron: one of three young doctors; the only female on this team

Dr. Chase: the second young doctor; from Australia

Dr. Foreman: the third young doctor; an African-American

Dr. Wilson: a slightly older doctor (oncologist?), who is also a friend of Dr. House

Cutty (you never hear her name in this show): the head administrator of the hospital


Note 1: Remember that this TV show uses a lot of sarcasm (See House, Pilot for examples)

Note 2: In addition to the paid staff, most hospitals have volunteer workers, such as an elderly lady in this show who distributes sterilized toys to newborn babies


*A few phrases:

*to break (bad news, the sad truth…): to tell (sth unpleasant) to sb

exhibit A…exhibit B…: examples used to prove sth, esp. in a courtroom

*to get our hands on sth: to obtain sth that was not easy to obtain

Hail Mary pass: a football term, describing when you pass the ball a long way down the field with only seconds left in the game—you probably won't score, but if you do it will win the game. ("This is a Hail Mary pass. It might cure your daughter. It might not.")

*managed to (do sth): an informal way to say that you did something that was not easy to do (“It is a rare medicine, but I've managed to find some.")

*a needle in a haystack: sth that is almost impossible to find ("Finding out which virus she has is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But if we don't search the haystack she will die.")

[No Audible Dialogue]: a subtitle that means you can't hear what the actors are saying

*to rattle off (facts/numbers…): to list information quickly or without much thought (as if from memory)


A few terms (vocabulary):

*autopsy: to examine a dead body in order to find the cause of death

*to bug sb: to irritate sb (like a swarm of bugs)

*cluster: a group of related things that are close together; similar things that exist in a dependent relationship (grapes grow in clusters)

*coincidence: when unrelated things happen by chance in a way that makes them seem related

[medical] cultures: bacteria (or other biological material) grown for scientific use or examination

*epidemic: a large number of cases of an illness, occurring at the same time

fever: the medical condition of having a high temperature (98.6°F and 37°C are normal)

to hunt/to go hunting: to look carefully for sth, esp. an animal

*ICU: Intensive Care Unit, which gives special care to those who are very sick; often, relatives are not allowed to visit or touch someone in an ICU (NICU is Natal Intensive Care Unit)

*infant: baby (also called a newborn)

to isolate: to keep sth far away from others ("We need to isolate this illness to protect other patients.")

to lodge: to get stuck ("He couldn't breath because of candy lodged in this throat.")

*maternity: related to motherhood ("Isn't this a cute maternity dress?" "Let's visit the maternity ward.")

natal: related to birth ("Pre-natal medical care is very important." "The natal unit delivered two babies today.")

*over-the-counter drugs: medicine that you can buy without a prescription (Use hyphens if it is used as an adjective. "Many antibiotics are available over the counter in developing countries.")

to plummet (plummeting): to fall quickly

postmortem or post-mortem: BrE meaning "autopsy"; literally means "after death"

*seizure: a short, sudden loss of control of one’s body (often due to illness or a reaction to drugs)

*a shrink: (informal) a psychiatrist or mental health dr.

to spike: to rise sharply and quickly and then fall again ("When electricity spikes, it is bad for your computer." "Her fever is spiking at over 103°.")

a superbug: resistant bacteria; bacteria that can't be killed with common drugs

*to take precedence: to be more important, and thus needing more urgent attention ("In the emergency room, a heart attack takes precedence over a broken arm.")


Dialog 1:

OB/GYN1: [Are you] Enjoying our lounge, [Dr] House?

Dr House: [I] Just came in to get milk for my coffee, which you're out of.

OB/GYN2: So, [what happened with] the Hartigs [baby]?

1: Their baby gets a fever.

2: What. Don't tell me—the kid had a seizure.

1: Yep. The parents, of course, start freaking (going crazy), and I have to deal with that for an hour.

2 (sarcastically): Like it was your fault.

1: She was perfect when I delivered her. If you wanna (want to) blame someone, blame the pediatrician.

2: So, how is the kid now?

1: Bowel obstruction. She's under observation. She'll be fine.

2: The pediatrician will take all the credit.


Dialog 2:

House (in baby ICU): Exhibit A: Baby Girl Hartig. [Full] Term baby, 42 hours old. Went into seizures six hours ago, brought into the intensive care… diagnosed with obstruction of the small bowel.

Dr Wilson: I'm still amazed you're actually in the same room with a patient.

House: People don't bug me until they get teeth. Exhibit B: Baby Boy Hausen. Another term baby, 48 hours old. Brought into the NICU three hours before the Hartig baby. Fever of unknown origin, 101 degrees [98.6F is normal], trending upwards.

Wilson (sarcastically): Wow, that is amazing. You found out about two sick babies.

House: Don't touch that! We have an infection spreading in the hospital.

Wilson (scoffs): These kids have totally unrelated illnesses.

House: They fell sick within four hours of each other. They had the same delivery rooms, maternity rooms are neighboring, so transmission is possible. They have the same symptoms. Something has infected both of these infants.


Dialog 3:

House (to the hospital administrator): I want these two kids isolated. I want the maternity ward shut down.

Cutty (sarcastically): Because you are better at reading an X-ray than a radiologist?

House: Radiologists always overread babies' X-rays, especially if they're asked to rule out a pathology. He read into it what he wanted.

Cutty: Which is exactly what you're doing. You're finding a cluster because you think it's interesting to find a cluster.

House (sarcastically): See, this is why I don't waste money on shrinks, 'because you give me all these really great insights for free.

Cutty (scoffs): Shrink. If you would consider going to a shrink, I would pay for it myself.

House: We have an epidemic!

Cutty: Two sick babies is very sad, but it doesn't prove an epidemic.

House: How many do? (How many sick babies do we need to prove an epidemic?)


Dialog 4: (a brainstorming session)

House: Three sick babies, and a fourth showing early symptoms.

Chase: They have spiking fevers.

Foreman: BP's (blood pressure) plummeting. They're barely able to keep systolic (rate of heart contractions) up. At this rate, they could be dead in a day.

Cutty: Where did this come from?

Cameron: Two delivery rooms, four different maternity rooms. No common personnel and no common equipment.

Cutty: There's got to be something in common.

House (sarcastically): Yeah. That would be the difference between an epidemic and a coincidence.

Cutty: We're gonna start swabbing (using cotton swabs to get samples, which can be tested in a lab).

Cameron: This is like a needle in a haystack.

House: So let's figure out what's in the haystack. Differential diagnosis, people.

Cameron: Parasite? Virus? But these don't fit the facts.

House: Which leads us to bacterial infection. It's not responding to broad-spectrum antibiotics, so we've got something resistant. [What are] The usual suspects?

Foreman: It's always MRSA in hospitals.

Cameron: Maybe [a] contaminated food or water source. Pseudomonas.

Chase: V.R.E.? "H" flu?

House: Okay. Those are the big ones. Cultures will take 48 hours. [They] Might as well be postmortem. We'll start them on…          I'll be in the clinic. Grab me if you find something important… or unimportant.


Dialog 5:

Foreman: [It was a] Pretty standard question—"How sick is my child?" You couldn't answer. You rattled off numbers, like blood pressure and temperature; it's not what they need to know.

Cameron: What they need to know is the future. [Have] You got a Magic 8 Ball (a toy that was supposed to tell the future)?

Foreman: No, just eight years of medical training. Look, I realize it's tough to break bad news to families.

Cameron: Not as tough as hearing it.

Foreman: And I guess being the poor guy dying is the toughest of all?

Cameron: No. It's easier to die than to watch someone die.


Dialog 6:

House (sarcastically): You look cheery. What's going on?

Cameron: The Hartig and Chen-Lupino babies—their kidneys are shutting down and the urine tests show no casts.

House: Which means the antibiotics are causing the kidney failure. But which one did it?

Chase: Both vancomycin and aztreonam can cause this. There's no way to know which one it is. No test.

Foreman: We can't take 'em off the antibiotics though. They'll die of the infection.

Cameron: If we leave them on both the antibiotics, they'll die of kidney failure.

House (after long pause): There's no point in guessing which treatment to stop. Take one kid off vancomycin, the other off aztreonam.

Chase: They have the same disease. You want to give them different treatments?

Foreman: Therapeutic trial? That's wrong. We have a duty to help both babies.

House: We have four sick kids at least, and there may be more. If these two have different reactions, we'll know how to save the rest.

Foreman: So you're going to flip a coin (to decide by seeing which way it falls/stops) and condemn one of these kids to die based on random chance?

House: I guess I am.

Lawyer: Do you want to lose your medical license? I strongly advise you to come up with a medical rationale why baby "A" should get medicine "X" and vice versa. You can't experiment on babies.

House: Fine. I'll get the parents' consent.

Lawyer: Their informed consent. They have to know the other kid is getting a different treatment. That's their legal right.

House: It would be unethical for one patient to know about another patient's treatment. Two more babies have just become symptomatic. I defer to your legal wisdom. Which takes precedence—six dying babies or a missing consent form?


Dialog 7:

House: Neither antibiotic kills it. What the hell is this?

Foreman: It's a superbug.

House: This is our fault. Doctors overprescribing antibiotics. Patients getting them over-the-counter. (sarcastically) Got a cold? Take some penicillin. Sniffles? No problem; have some azithromycin. Is that not working anymore? Well, try levaquin. [There are] Antibacterial soaps in every bathroom. They'll be adding vancomycin to the water supply soon. We bred these superbugs. They're our babies, and they're all grown up, and they've got body piercings and a lot of anger (i.e., we created these superbugs and now they act like rebellious teenagers).

Wilson: On the other hand, maybe antibiotics had nothing to do with it. Did you see how low the baby's BP was at the end? Maybe it was heart damage. Maybe a virus, not bacteria.

Foreman: If it's a virus we're screwed. We can't chase down a virus. There's a thousand possibilities. The babies don't have enough blood to run that many gels.

Wilson: We could only do five or six before we risk exsanguinating (bleeding them to death) the kids.

House: We're all tired. Go home. There's nothing more you can do tonight. I'll do the autopsy myself.


Dialog 8:

Foreman (to a patient's mother): Tests show that this is Echo virus 11. It lodges in the intestinal tract.

Cameron: This kind of virus causes diarrhea (拉肚子) and flu-like symptoms in adults, maybe a rash (皮疹), but for newborns it can be deadly. It's damaging her heart.

Mother: Is there anything you can do?

Foreman: Viruses are more difficult to treat than bacterial infections. We still haven't found a cure for the common cold.

Mother: So, you mean there's no vaccine?

Foreman: There's a company in Pennsylvania developing an antiviral. It has had positive results in a lab setting. We managed to get our hands on it. But there are no guarantees.

Mother: Okay.

Cameron: I know it is hard, not being able to touch your own baby. So, can I get your guys' help with something? We need someone to hold your daughter Maxine up off the bed while the nurse changes her sheet.

Mother: Sure



1. Look at dialog 2. Why didn't the administrator (Cutty) want to believe or follow Dr. House's diagnosis that there was an epidemic in the hospital? Give at least three reasons. Why did Cutty offer to pay for Dr. House to see a shrink? Do you think he should see a shrink? Why or why not?

2. Look at dialog 5. Tell your partner if you think it is easier to die, to be told that a loved one is dying, or to tell a patient that someone is dying? Explain your answer. What would you have said to these parents?

3. Look at dialog 6. Talk about Dr. House's decision. What would you have done? Would you risk losing your medical license to save a patient? Explain your answer.

4. Look at dialog 7. Do you think the easy availability of antibiotics is a problem? Should antibiotics be available over-the-counter? Should we use "antibacterial soaps"? Why or why not?

5. Look at dialog 8. Tell your partner what you think of Cameron's idea to let the parents hold Maxine up while the nurse changed her sheet. Explain why she did this, and whether or not it was a good idea.

6. At the end of the show, you saw the cause of this virus. Explain the problem to your partner. What lesson(s) can hospital personnel learn from this show?


Role play: (choose one)

1. Look at dialog 8. Foreman suggested that this mother try a new drug that had not been fully tested. Pretend that you are Foreman and your partner is the mother—and she is afraid of untested medicine. How would you convince her to try the experimental drug?

2. Pretend that the lawyer "won" the argument in dialog 6. You took all six babies off the same drug, and they all died. You are Cutty and your partner is the lawyer. Talk about what happened and about how that will affect the hospital's reputation. Should the lawyer apologize or was he right to insist that everyone honor the patients' right to "informed consent"?

3. Instead of a creating a role play, write at least five sentences with some of the phrases and medical terms in this lesson. When you finish, bring them to me so I can help you correct them.


Notes: These dialogs have been changed for educational purposes. This isn’t a transcript of the show!

To understand some of the medical terms I looked at or

*I want students to learn these terms

See our Website Standards and Use Policy regarding the sources of definitions used on this website.


This resource was created for our students under our understanding of "fair use" for educational resources. 

This page does not imply any consent from or relationship with the publisher(s) or producer(s). 

2007 As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

 (see Website Standards and Use Policy)


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