‘Grey’s Anatomy’ writer has been accused of packaging the trauma of others as her own by soon-to-be ex wife
Elisabeth Finch was suspended, and has since taken a leave of absence, amid allegations that she falsified her own medical traumas while working in the writers’ room on Grey’s Anatomy.
A whopping 18 seasons into the medical drama, we’re no stranger to seeing scandal after scandal play out within the walls of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Since the show premiered in 2005, we’ve been left reeling time and time again — Izzy cutting Denny’s LVAD wire, the patient with a bomb in their chest cavity, and the fatal plane crash all spring to mind.
Similarly, we’ve heard of quite a few behind-the-scenes scandals over the past 17 years. There were rumours that showrunner Shonda Rhimes killed off McDreamy due to a personal dislike for Patrick Dempsey and speculations of an on-set feud between Katherine Heigl and Issiah Washington (Dr Preston Burke).
Nevertheless, we’ve never experienced a Grey’s related scandal quite like this one.
In a recent two-part investigation published by Vanity Fair, it was found that longtime Grey’s writer Elisabeth Finch has been accused of lying to her colleagues about living with a rare form of cancer, as well as other medical and personal traumas that she appropriated as her own.
Within the walls of the writers’ room, intimate confessions and lived experiences are thought of as something of a currency. Empathetically translating real-life stories, true events and genuine medical issues into plotlines for the show’s cast is what the job’s all about.
So, when Elisabeth Finch wrote a personal essay for Elle in 2014 detailing her rare and fatal diagnosis of bone cancer — chondrosarcoma — she was offered a dream job working on the 10th season for Grey’s Anatomy.
Fast forward five years and a version of Finch’s story was playing out before our eyes, portrayed by the character Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen). The story follows the surgeon as she urges her colleagues to find a way to save her regardless of the risks involved in undergoing surgery.
The voiceover chimes in then, speaking to Finch’s backstage persona as their own onsite miracle. “The problem with all the how-to, step-by-step books — they don’t take into account the exceptions to the rules. They never leave room for the outliers. The geniuses, the miracles.”
Said to have been living with the diagnosis since 2012, Finch was the only one in her clinical trial to survive. Inspiring support and empathy from her colleagues, the writer received all the time off she needed and promoted her episodes with essays that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter and Shondaland.com.
Elisabeth Finch also wrote about facing the dilemma of pregnancy while undergoing chemotherapy, opting to get an abortion in the end, as well as reportedly having received a kidney transplant. Finch also spoke with colleagues about a friendship between her and one of the victims in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, an act of anti-Semitic violence that left 11 people dead. She said that she had helped clean up her friend’s remains, but Vanity Fair (VF) spoke with the burial organisation, who said that Elisabeth Finch was not involved.
Finch’s alleged penchant for falsehoods was brought to the Shondaland creator, Shonda Rhimes, by “a struggling mother of five from Kansas and a registered nurse who had married Finch in 2020 though they were by now estranged,” Jennifer Beyer.
The pair met at a mental health treatment centre in Arizona, quickly progressing from friends to lovers. Beyer was seeking treatment from PTSD resulting from abuse suffered during her 18-year marriage. Finch was there for PTSD from the Pittsburg shooting.
Beyer has said that as the pair grew closer, Finch’s trauma became less about the shooting of a friend, and more about abuse suffered at the hands of her as a child, drawing a parallel with Beyer’s experience. At some point before the pair were wed, Beyer began to suspect that Finch was borrowing elements of her own struggles and repurposing them as her own.
According to the VF report, Finch reportedly told her colleagues that the violence Beyer received at the hands of her husband, who later died by suicide, had actually been harm done to Finch by her brother, also claiming that he had taken his own life. Colleagues later found that he was alive and working as a doctor in Florida.
In March, Elisabeth Finch was suspended and put under investigation by ABC. Since then, the Grey’s Anatomy writer has taken a leave of absence, and the network is no longer investigating her. While she herself has not made comment on the situation, her litigator — Andrew Brettler, who has represented the likes of Prince Andrew, Chris Noth, and Armie Hammer — is pointing to bias on the part of Beyer due to their “highly contention divorce” that remains ongoing.