TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Diagnosis TV Poster Image
Sometimes-graphic medical mystery docu can be healing.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Many positive messages around the topic of illness, including how community -- medical and otherwise -- can give hope and support to those in dire situations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

This series shows many medical professionals who approach their jobs with hope, empathy, and trust for their patients -- which is something that not everyone experiences when dealing with illness.


Interviews can occasionally feature some profanity: "a--hole," "s--t," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Diagnosis is a medical documentary show about people suffering with rare illnesses that disrupt their day-to-day lives. Subjects are adults, teens, and young children, and their symptoms can often be jarring -- seizures, vomiting, bleeding, etc. The format is like a medical detective show, where the host, Dr. Lisa Sanders, uses her column in the New York Times to solicit potential diagnoses and they are cross-checked by doctors until a satisfactory diagnosis and treatment plan is found. The subject matter may be complex for those who have never experienced or been around chronic illness, but for those who have it might be illuminating, both in terms of seeing how difficult navigating medicine can be and seeing how much support is available outside of one's own community.

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What's the story?

Dr. Lisa Sanders writes a column for the New York Times in which she describes individual patients with chronic illnesses that are extremely difficult to diagnose. Her network of readers responds by offering potential diagnoses to these patients -- sometimes based in medical experience, sometimes based on personal experience. Dr. Sanders and the patients filter through the responses until they are able to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan that works for each patient.

Is it any good?

One of the least talked about side-effects of being sick is the loneliness and desperation that can accompany it, which this series respectfully understands. Everyone wants to feel good and be healthy, but there can be many roadblocks to good health, including personal, medical and financial ones. Often, the longer someone is suffering with a form of illness, the more that loneliness or desperation increases, and for people with chronic illnesses that are difficult to classify, like those featured on Diagnosis, the emotional strain can be enormous.

The medical mystery aspect of the show can be compelling, but the most powerful part of Diagnosis is seeing people with chronic illness and their families discover that there people throughout the world that are eager to help them, whether with medical expertise, shared experience, or just compassion and community. The show's brand of entertainment might not be for everyone, but for some viewers, seeing sick people instilled with hope might be a revelation. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about illness. What does it mean to be sick? How does it feel, physically? Mentally? How does your experience with illness compare with those on the show? Do you have anything in common with them? Do you know anyone who has?

  • What have your interactions with doctors been like? What were your good experiences? Have you had any bad experiences? How do your doctors compare with those you see on the show?

  • How do communities support those with chronic illnesses? How do families cope with sickness? How does Dr. Sanders' column change how these patients are supported? Do they find new communities or support systems? How do they help?

TV details

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