Jeopardy under fire for 'outdated' clue about medical disorder
Actress Mara Wilson is among those calling out the quiz show.
Jeopardy has drawn criticism for an inaccurate clue about a medical disorder on Monday's episode of the long-running quiz show, with several viewers calling for an apology.
The clue read, "Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is also known as Grinch syndrome because this organ is too small," with the correct response being, "What is the heart?" According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, POTS is a blood circulation disorder in which "an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to the heart after an individual stands up from a lying down position," which causes "a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats per minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute, within 10 minutes of rising."
The majority of those affected by POTS are women, according to the NINDS, with the disorder often beginning "after a pregnancy, major surgery, trauma, or a viral illness." (There has also been a recent uptick of patients with POTS symptoms linked to COVID-19.) The institute's information page on the disorder does not mention heart size or the term "Grinch syndrome," which refers to the Christmas-hating Dr. Seuss character whose heart was "two sizes too small." Johns Hopkins Medicine, meanwhile, notes that "In most patients with POTS, the structure of the heart itself is normal."
On Tuesday, Jeopardy issued an apology via Twitter, writing, "Yesterday's program included a clue about postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). After hearing from the community, we found we used an outdated and inaccurate term for this disorder, and we apologize."
Several users had criticized the clue on Twitter, including the official account for Dysautonomia International, a nonprofit that "raises funds for research and promotes awareness of disorders of the autonomic nervous system," according to its Twitter bio.
"Hey @Jeopardy no one with any credibility calls POTS 'Grinch Syndrome,'" the organization wrote in a tweet. "Promoting outdated misogynistic terms to describe a debilitating autonomic nervous system disorder that impacts millions of Americans is not cool. We request an apology on behalf of our community. Do better."
Actress Mara Wilson, who has spoken about her experience living with dysautonomia and undergone testing for POTS, also criticized the clue, writing, "It's also just not true! It was based on one doctor's contentious theory proposed more than ten years ago. There's no scientific consensus. Disappointed to see @Jeopardy spreading medical misinformation."
"Thinking back to all the EKGs, ECGs, stress tests, and heart monitors I've had over the years, all of which have shown my heart to be totally normal, while my autonomic nervous system remains a mess," Wilson added.
The term "Grinch syndrome" was apparently coined in a 2011 study of 28 POTS patients, arguing that the disorder "was attributable to a small heart coupled with reduced blood volume" and proposing "The Grinch Syndrome" as "a new name for POTS." Use of the term in the medical community appears to be limited to that study and references to it.
This is the latest in a string of recent controversies for Jeopardy, which also came under fire for bringing on Dr. Mehmet Oz as a temporary host earlier this year, and drew criticism after a contestant allegedly flashed a "white power" symbol on the show, which the contestant later denied.