‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Was Once Part of a Secret Social Experiment That Fans Never Knew About

The long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy is heading in season 17. Over the years, the writers and producers have tackled many current events and social issues. However, there was one social experiment that fans never knew the show was a part of. 

'Grey's Anatomy' alums Katherine Heigl and Justin Chambers
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alums Katherine Heigl and Justin Chambers | Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 will tackle the coronavirus and Black Lives Matter movement

The upcoming season of Grey’s Anatomy is going to jump ahead in the timeline to “about a month and a half into full COVID,” according to actor Giacomo Gianniotti who plays Andrew DeLuca.

“There’s been no shortage of incredible stories that have been going around this time,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Both in the hospital walls and in the streets of cities protesting, [there are many things going on], so we hope to tell all those stories this season.”

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Although season 16 ended with episode 21 instead of 24, the producers are not planning to pick up where things left off. Instead, they will address the current events going on in the world today.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was once part of a secret social experiment involving HIV positive pregnancies

In season 4, episode 13 of Grey’s Anatomy, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) meets a couple who thinks they might be pregnant — Sarah and Freddie. Izzie gets the pregnancy test results, and Sarah is indeed pregnant; however, she is also HIV positive. 

The couple would like to have an abortion because they do not want the baby to have HIV. However, Izzie informs them that they could have a healthy baby. Sarah doesn’t believe the doctor and insists she is only getting her husband’s hopes up. During a moving speech, Izzie tells the pair that there is a 98% chance that they could have a perfectly healthy baby. 

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Sarah had given up all hope of having a child a long time ago. With this news, they decide to keep the baby. The social experiment was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) to see if they could change people’s negative attitudes about HIV positive pregnancies. KFF is a non-profit organization that conducts research focusing on national health issues.

The social experiment surrounding HIV was successful

The study found considerable potential for popular TV shows to educate the public about health. Many viewers remembered the information that Grey’s Anatomy provided about HIV, even six weeks later. 

“On the key fact presented in the show—that an HIV-positive pregnant woman who gets the proper treatment has more than a 90% chance of having a healthy baby—the proportion of viewers who were aware of that fact quadrupled,” the study by KFF reported.

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“The results of surveys conducted went “from 15% before the show to 61% after it aired, an increase of 46 percentage points.” 

The foundation found that the social experiment was very impactful on educating the general public about important health topics.