The fundamental question posed by the series House, M.D. since its first year concerns doing the “right” thing. In House’s (Hugh Laurie) world, doing the right thing doesn’t always mean doing the expedient or safe thing. It often requires stomping on the rules, ignoring protocol and taking risks both with the patient’s life and with the careers of all doctors involved in the case.
In the season two episode “Deception,” Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) frames House’s modus operandi as medical anarchy—an approach that will someday lead to someone getting killed. In this week’s episode “Nobody’s Fault,” House is investigated do determine the blame for a incident in which Chase (Jesse Spencer) is nearly killed, and from which his recovery will likely be slow and painful (emotionally as well as physically).
Pursuing Adams’ (Odette Annable) diagnosis—something with which House disagrees, Chase plans to grab a small sample of a rash on the patient’s body. Prepping the patient for the biopsy scalpel, Adams triggers a psychotic break caused by the medicine given him by House’s team. As Chase tries to handle the quickly escalating situation, the patient grabs a scalpel, stabbing him in the chest.
How could something like this happen, wonders the doctor assigned to investigate and assign blame. Foreman brings in his old mentor Dr. Walter Cofield (Jeffrey Wright), who interviews everyone involved to ascertain whether the chaotic atmosphere created within House’s department has inevitably led to tragedy.
Ultimately, it is not House’s sarcasm, his lack of patient contact, or even his Vicodin use that is the issue; it is the chaos that surrounds his diagnostic process.
There is a season four episode called “97 Seconds” in which the patient dies because of simple human error, but error made a thousand times more likely due to the chaos fed by House’s fellow-hiring games. House would argue that his methods do sometimes lead to bad things happening, but he does the math, and although he may lose an occasional patient, House’s track record for saving patients that other doctors have dismissed as lost causes is pretty astonishing. But does his success make it right? Should House be allowed to continue practicing medicine the way he does? Or does the risk outweigh the possible benefit? And that’s never been directly challenged in eight years of House episodes (except tangentially so in “The Mistake”).