Ellen Pompeo Faces Backlash For Giving Well Intentioned But Misleading Medical Advice On Air

People online are letting actress Ellen Pompeo know she’s not a doctor even though she plays one on TV.

Pompeo plays Dr. Meredith Grey, the head of general surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital on the long-running ABC show Grey’s Anatomy. She hit the stage at the Ellen Degeneres Show to raise awareness for breast cancer.

The actress was on the show to auction herself off for coffee and a chat with an audience member in order to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Once the bidding was over, Pompeo went a bit off-script.

Pompeo urged viewers to request a specific test from their doctors to screen for ovarian cancer, saying:

“When you go to the doctor, health insurance won’t pay for the ultrasound… you have to ask … So when you go to the doctor for your mammograms or your checkups, make sure you ask for the ultrasound because ovarian cancer is not detected otherwise and it’s a simple ultrasound and you can catch it and live.” 

Earlier this year Pompeo stirred controversy by revealing to The Hollywood Reporter that she is the “highest paid actress on a primetime drama.”

SOURCE: PHOTO BY DANNY FELD/ABC VIA GETTY IMAGES

Pompeo’s comments quickly drew attention and frustration from many in the medical field, particularly San Francisco-based OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, who took to both Twitter and her blog with a reality check for the actress.

Referencing Pompeo’s appearance on Ellen and specifically her comments, Gunter said:

“Sigh. She’s wrong . . . Insert angry emoji It is frustrating to see someone with such influence use it to spread such incorrect information.”

She also addressed the faux pas head-on on Twitter:

Gunter also told BuzzFeed News that celebrity statements like Pompeo’s can end up influencing the decisions people make about their health and even fuel a greater mistrust of physicians.

She said:

“The implication was very much that doctors are dropping the ball and not doing this for you… It’s fine to raise awareness but to tell people they should get a specific test… well, what’s the fallout when a physician says no?”

Others backed up Dr. Gunter:

Some grateful fans still had Pompeo’s back and showed their support:

Dr. Gunter said on her blog that she did not blame DeGeneres or the show and felt Pompeo was well-meaning, if ill-informed:

“I don’t blame Ellen DeGeneres, the segment was about breast cancer and Ms. Pompeo’s interjection on ovarian cancer seemed unscripted. I also believe Ms. Pompeo was speaking earnestly, but well-meaning misinformation is still misinformation and it harms just the same.”

Pompeo admitted her comments were unscripted and seemed happy to help “get the right facts out there.”

Both women handled the situation well, focusing on bringing awareness to both breast and ovarian cancer.

If you are concerned about ovarian cancer or have any questions about screening, talk to your OB-GYN. If you’d like more information about ovarian cancer screening, check out Cancer Treatment Centers of America or the American Cancer Society‘s pages on ovarian cancer.