Welcome to my Sunday routine. Open up the New York Times Magazine, turn to the "Diagnosis" column, and dig in. Each week, Dr. Lisa Sanders describes a mysterious medical condition that doctors struggled to diagnose.
Some of the columns are harrowing, like this man who falls ill from exposure to rat waste. But all are fascinating and accessible to people without medical training (read: me).
In the columns, Sanders unfurls the patients' symptoms, the doctors' dead ends, and their ultimate diagnosis with literary flair. There's a reason why her column inspired the TV show House — they contain the elements of a good story: suspense, action, resolution. Now, in the new Netflix show Diagnosis, Sanders' frankly cinematic column is translated onto the screen. In the show, Sanders is the one doing the diagnosing, and so are New York Times' readers.
Sanders began her career as a broadcast journalist. Actually, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist. After less than a decade in broadcast journalism, Sanders was accepted to the Yale School of Medicine. Now, she works as a physician at Yale, a writer of columns like Diagnosis and Think Like a Doctor, and much friendlier than her fictional counterpart, Dr. Gregory House (but just as much of a diagnostic whiz).
Before the show, the New York Times presented eight patients, and seven unsolved cases, on the site.
There's Angel Parker, a Las Vegas woman in her 20s suffering from muscle pain for over a decade and is in terrible medical debt. Seven-year-old Sadie Gonzalez might have to have half of her brain removed — unless doctors had diagnosed Sadie incorrectly. Willie Reyes suffers from a memory loss connected to his time serving in the Gulf War. Kamiyah Morgan is a 6-year-old who has up to 400 seizures a day. Lashay Hamblin can't complete her senior year of school in Utah because she can't keep any food or water down. Matt Lee has chronic fainting spells. Diagnosis' final episode follows Joe and Ann, two middle-aged adults with the same unexplained waist-down paralysis.
At the bottom of Sanders' detailed accounts on the Times' website, readers could submit advice and ideas to the patients. The readers' responses guided Sanders' actual diagnosis process, turning Diagnosis into a crowd-sourced version of House. This isn't a far-fetched concept: Doctors actually use sites like KevinMd.com to crowdsource their own cases.
As with all of Netflix's reality TV shows, Diagnosis has more than a few tear-jerking sequences. The relief of patients finally getting a diagnosis, or not being told they're crazy for feeling sick. Watching Diagnosis has all of the fun of true crime's mystery, but none of the guilt – the episodes finish with people staying alive.
Currently, all of the patients in Diagnosis are alive and well. And some are cured. Watch Diagnosis to learn which.