Grey’s Anatomy is a show about beautiful people in scrubs rubbing up against each other, but it’s also a show about illness, pain, and our dumb, fragile little bodies. So it makes sense that its writers room would include people who know what it feels like to face frightening diagnoses and uncertain futures. One such writer, Elisabeth Finch, wrote stories from her own harrowing medical history into the show—but now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, her bosses are trying to “determine if elements including Finch’s cancer diagnosis and abortion while undergoing chemotherapy, among other subjects, were not accurate.”
After getting her start writing for True Blood and The Vampire Diaries—during which, she wrote in a personal essay for Elle, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma—Finch joined the Grey’s in 2014. There, she penned the lauded sexual assault-focused episode “Silent All These Years,” which was inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh hearings, and wrote aspects of her own story into the series via a cancer plot line for the character Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen).
But, according to the industry newsletter The Ankler, Finch’s Shondaland colleagues came to doubt the veracity of Finch’s personal story, and the writer has been suspended pending the results of an HR and legal investigation.
It gets messier: Finch is in the midst of a divorce, and her estranged wife reportedly tipped Finch’s bosses off to the alleged fabrications. According to THR, “When colleagues phoned Finch’s wife, Jennifer Beyer, similarities to the story Finch told her colleagues and Beyer’s history matched,” which sounds like Finch is possibly being accused of passing off elements of wife’s medical history as her own.
Finch’s lawyer told the magazine that she “will not disclose her private health matters” or “speak about her pending divorce from her estranged wife, Jennifer Beyer, or comment on any statements that Ms. Beyer may have made to third parties about Ms. Finch.” Shondaland’s comment to The Ankler was short and enigmatic: “Only Elisabeth can speak to her personal story.”
Finch has locked down her Twitter, but the personal essays she wrote are still online. In them, she describes how an unrelated knee injury led to the discovery of a rare, chemo-resistant bone cancer and recounts her decision to have an abortion after becoming pregnant while undergoing chemo. Another piece tells the story of her confrontation with a doctor who initially failed to detect her cancer, connecting her misdiagnosis to the medical discrimination women regularly face. Outside of her writing about her health, she published an essay for THR about experiencing misogynistic verbal abuse during her time working on The Vampire Diaries and about the support she received from showrunner Julie Plec.
No matter how the investigation shakes out, this is looking like a deeply fucked up story. If the reports so far hold true, we’ve either got someone who was less than truthful about serious medical conditions, seemingly to further her career, or we’re potentially looking at someone who tried to crater their soon-to-be-ex-wife’s life by lying to her employers.
In a piece about confronting her workaholic tendencies, Finch described feeling supported by her employers at Vampire Diaries and Grey’s during her illness. “Cancer cost me my immune system, my hair, a fourth of my tibia, a good portion of my bank account, two friendships, one knee (replaceable), and one functioning kidney (not so replaceable),” she wrote. “But it never cost me my job.”