The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

The Grey's Anatomy Writer Hoax

"For years, a Grey’s Anatomy writer told her personal traumas in online essays, and wove those details into the show’s plot—until a surprising email to Shondaland accused her of making it all up."


I had missed this story by Evgenia Peretz when it came out in early May in Vanity Fair ("Scene Stealer: The True Lies of Elisabeth Finch," Part 1 and Part 2), and only saw it because of this MedPage Today (Emily Dwass) piece ("Was I Conned by a 'Grey's  Anatomy' Writer? — Her alleged duplicity could make things tougher for female patients"). It's fascinating and chilling, and a reminder of how even people we're predisposed to trust are sometimes untrustworthy.

One item, by the way, from the MedPage piece:

I get why no one doubted her cancer journey—who would lie about having a deadly disease? According to Peretz, Finch was given time off from work whenever she requested it to take part in treatments and clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

What I can't wrap my head around is why Finch's colleagues apparently didn't question the escalating and extreme crises that tormented her. Peretz writes about the string of calamities that afflicted Finch, "some of which she chronicled for the world, some of which she talked about in select company." There was a doomed pregnancy, a failing kidney, a friend murdered in the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting (Finch claimed to help clean up the body parts), an abusive brother who attempted suicide. Peretz's article calls into question whether any of these things actually occurred.

How was it possible that no one at "Grey's Anatomy" saw these catastrophes as red flags that something was off, and that Finch needed some kind of mental health intervention?

It seems to me the answer is clear: It's naturally always hard to accuse someone of lying, especially about circumstances to which most people are normally inclined to react with sympathy. But when skepticism and failure to #Believe… is often condemned as a moral failing, who wants to "question"?