"I use episodes from television dramas when I teach medical ethics," he said. "The concise and dramatic portrayal of ethical dilemmas allows complex issues to be introduced in compelling ways. There have been great episodes about [do not resuscitate] orders, informed consent, organ donation, experimental therapy and the like.
"It is not just the 'doctor' shows, either. Medicine becomes part of the plot on other shows -- 'Law and Order,' 'Star Trek' et cetera," Lantos said.
And Lantos is not alone in taking a cue from television to teach about medicine.
Sinz serves as the director of the simulation center at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where students learn how to handle emergency situations using sophisticated mannequins -- and are filmed doing it. They then watch the film and are critiqued on their performance.
In short, the idea is to help doctors-in-training avoid making mistakes by putting those students on television themselves.
"There is, I think, still more work to be done to see where this kind of training is going to be helpful," Sinz said.