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The Dr. Ross Scene That Went Too Far On ER

It's not an understatement to say that "ER" dramatically transformed the medical television landscape. Developed by a young upstart you may have heard of named Michael Crichton with the help of Steven Spielberg, the acclaimed drama premiered in 1994 and aired for 15 seasons until it ended its historic run in 2009. "ER" held the record for longest-running primetime medical drama until the heir apparent, "Grey's Anatomy," surpassed it in 2019 (via Vulture). At the peak of its powers in 1998, "ER" drew nearly 48 million viewers a week.

Shot more like an action thriller than a stolid workplace drama, the immense success of "ER" is perhaps owing to its highly kinetic directorial style. The fresh-faced ensemble cast didn't hurt, either. Over the course of its 15 seasons, a litany of stars made appearances on the series, maybe none more successful than George Clooney. The actor gained widespread recognition playing Dr. Doug Ross, County General Hospital's womanizing, quick-tempered pediatrician. A passionate doctor whose concern for his patients sometimes skirted the rules of medical ethics, Dr. Ross was at the center of some of the biggest moments in "ER" history. Ross's bullheaded approach to medicine, however, could border on myopic, leading to rifts with his colleagues, and ultimately, his departure from County General.

Dr. Ross helps a mother euthanize her terminally ill son

Throughout his time on "E.R.," Dr. Ross' intense sense of responsibility leads him to cover medical costs for uninsured patients, assault child abusers, and disregard parental consent. Though these actions stem from a place of compassion, they frequently burden his colleagues and loved ones (not to mention break the law). Dr. Ross finally goes too far in Season 5, when he goes against hospital policy to help a woman named Joi (Valerie Mahaffey) euthanize her terminally ill son, Ricky (Kyle Chambers).

Over the course of a five-episode storyline, Dr. Ross surreptitiously provides Joi with Dilaudid for Ricky. Later, he shows Joi how to tamper with the patient-controlled analgesia, giving the suffering family unfettered access to the pain medication. As per usual, Ross's actions fail to consider his coworkers Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) and Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes), who put their own careers at risk to protect their impulsive colleague. The well-meaning plot also jeopardizes the work of Nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies), Ross's on-again-off-again love interest, who had been painstakingly developing a free clinic. The fallout culminates in the two-part episode "The Storm." In the wake of a suspension and possible criminal charges, Ross resigns from County General with plans to move to Seattle, abruptly ending his time on "E.R."

On r/ershow, Redditors chimed in on the prickly situation Ross created for himself. "I support euthanasia," writes u/Feebedel324, "but you can't just do whatever you want free [of] consequences." Redditor u/Vouzan added, "He wasn't thinking about how it might affect him or Carol nor Mark." It's u/Elbonio, however, who best articulates Ross's character arc: "He's complex. He is a good person at heart but he is simultaneously both the most selfless and selfish person on the show. He's quite the paradox."