Netflix and the The New York Times Launch New Show Sharing Undiagnosed Stories
Update: Diagnosis aired on August 16, 2019. The series features seven episodes, each around 50 minutes, profiling eight different cases.
If you’ve been searching for a diagnosis with no luck, a new series from The New York Times in partnership with Netflix may be your chance to get some answers. The New York Times is currently looking for people who are undiagnosed for a new series that uses crowdsourcing to solve people’s medical mysteries.
The series follows those who can’t figure out the cause of their troublesome symptoms. Those featured will be included in the New York Times’ “Diagnosis” column and will be documented as part of a Netflix series set to air in 2019. The column shares each person’s story as told by Lisa Sanders, MD, a former journalist turned doctor whose New York Times’ column served as the inspiration for the TV show “House.”
So far, the series has featured five people: Angel, who has severe muscle pain; Matt, who has frequent fainting spells; Willie, who lives with seizures, memory loss and mood swings; Lashay, who can’t keep down food or beverages; and James, a man who experiences “brain sloshing.” At the end of each patient’s story, Sanders invites readers to hypothesize what’s wrong.
Getting a diagnosis can help inform treatment and give people searching for answers some peace of mind. However, finding the right diagnosis can be a challenge. “I had thought that diagnosis was kind of like a cookbook. You know, you follow the recipe, you did what you were supposed to do and you came up with the right answer,” Sanders said. “That’s not how it is at all. It’s way more like Sherlock Holmes.”
Suggestions are welcome from everyone, not just the medical community, Sanders said, noting that she especially encourages suggestions from people with medically-complex illnesses. “See if you can take what you learned from your own suffering and apply it to somebody else’s suffering,” she added. “Help us come up with some new diagnoses.”
Once the submission period ends, Sanders will take the crowdsourced answers, narrow them down to the top contenders, and then present the options to the patient and their medical team. While Sanders will provide her feedback to those selected and their medical teams, she will not be serving as the primary physician on the cases.
The series will feature more than the five cases already highlighted. Anyone interested in sharing their unsolved diagnostic journey can apply to be featured. There are some cases that are more likely to be picked than others, Sanders advised. Those with long-term, unexplained chronic pain are unlikely to be a good fit. “We’re really good at diagnosing the things that will kill you, but we’re just beginning to make progress with the things that make you wish you were dead,” she said. “What interests me are people who have some abnormality that is discernable either visually or through testing.”
Those who apply should have their own physician, and that provider must be willing to consider the suggestions submitted by readers. Applicants should also have health insurance or the ability to pay for health care as the column and show will not provide any medical benefits.
“A diagnosis is just a word, and it doesn’t carry any promise of redemption or recovery, even,” Sanders said. “When it all works perfectly, and you have the right disease and you come to the right doctor at the right time, then you can sometimes get cured, most of the time you can be treated. What you really care about is someone who can help you reduce the suffering.”
Those who have an undiagnosed condition and are interested in being featured in both The New York Times column and upcoming series should write to the producers and share their medical mystery at firstname.lastname@example.org and CC email@example.com. Stories should be submitted by the end of August. All information will be treated in confidence and be subject to HIPAA guidelines.