"Grey's Anatomy" Writer Who Lied About Having Cancer Finally Explains Why She Did It
Elisabeth Finch faked being terminally ill as her "personal" stories were written into the show.
Earlier this year, Elisabeth Finch, a writer for Grey's Anatomy, left the series after claims she made about her own medical history—including that she was battling a rare form of cancer—began to be questioned. On March 17, The Ankler published an article explaining that much of what she told her colleagues and the world about her personal struggles and tragedies was under suspicion, after years of Finch opening up in the drama's writers' room and even seeing details about her made-up life make it into the show. On March 31, Finch announced that she was going on personal leave, as reported by Deadline. By May, Vanity Fair published an exposé about the TV writer, revealing that it was her own wife, Jennifer Beyer, who had gone to the companies Finch worked for with proof of her lies. (They are in the process of divorcing.)
Now, months later, Finch has spoken out herself in an interview with The Ankler. The disgraced writer confessed that she lied about having cancer, about having to have an abortion because of her diagnosis, and about losing a kidney because of it. But that's only part of the dramatic personal narrative she concocted. Read on to find out the reason she gave for deceiving so many.
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Finch's story spread far and wide.
Finch, who wrote for True Blood and The Vampire Diaries before becoming one of the top writers on Grey's Anatomy, claimed that she was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. She said that she lost a kidney and had to have an abortion due to chemotherapy treatments. She shaved her head to appear as though she was undergoing cancer treatments and had a fake port catheter. In the writers' room and on the set of Grey's Anatomy, she pretended to be seriously ill.
Finch used her story in her work at Grey's Anatomy, particularly with Debbie Allen's character Catherine Fox, and she also wrote essays about her life and health for a variety of publications, including Elle and The Hollywood Reporter. She even played a small role in one episode of Grey's Anatomy.
She admits now that she was lying the entire time.
In her interview with The Ankler, who first broke the story about her lies, Finch admitted, "I've never had any form of cancer." She also lied about having lost a friend in the 2018 on Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and about saying that the FBI let her onto the site to collect their remains. She lied too about her brother taking his own life—he is still alive.
"What I did was wrong. Not okay. [Expletive] up. All the words," Finch said.
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She said she lied because of trauma.
Finch said that one of the reasons she lied was because of trauma she claims she endured as a child. The writer alleges that her brother was abusive toward her. (The Ankler noted that neither he nor their parents could be reached for comment.)
"I know it's absolutely wrong what I did," Finch said. "I lied and there's no excuse for it. But there's context for it. The best way I can explain it is when you experience a level of trauma a lot of people adopt a maladaptive coping mechanism. Some people drink to hide or forget things. Drug addicts try to alter their reality. Some people cut. I lied. That was my coping and my way to feel safe and seen and heard."
She also said that a knee surgery played a role.
Finch explained that she was also affected by a knee replacement surgery following a 2007 injury.
"What ended up happening is that everyone was so amazing and so wonderful leading up to all the surgeries," Finch said. "They were so supportive. And then I got my knee replacement. It was one hell of a recovery period and then it was dead quiet because everyone naturally was like Yay! You're healed. But it was dead quiet. And I had no support and went back to my old maladaptive coping mechanism—I lied and made something up because I needed support and attention and that's the way I went after it. That's where that lie started—in that silence."
She said later in the interview, "I didn't know the connective tissue between my brother and my medical trauma and my depression and PTSD and anxiety."
The Ankler consulted Dr. Marc D. Feldman, a professor of psychiatry at University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, who said of the facts surrounding Finch's fall from grace, "This sounds like a classic case of factitious disorder." According to the Mayo Clinic, "Factitious disorder is a serious mental disorder in which someone deceives others by appearing sick, by purposely getting sick or by self-injury." The article does not indicate that Finch has even been officially diagnosed with or been treated for this disorder.
She wants to work again—and has another hit show in mind.
Finch hopes that she can one day work as a TV writer again.
"I could only hope that the work that I've done will allow me back into those relationships where I can say, 'Okay, I did this, I hurt a lot of people and I'm also going to work my [expletive] off because this is where I want to be and I know what it's like to lose everything,'" she said.
She offered The Handmaid's Tale as her dream job because of its portrayal of "redemption" and "accountability."
Former colleagues are not happy about the interview.
Some of Finch's former colleagues have spoken out about the interview, which they find disengenuous. One told The Ankler directly, "What she's done is absolutely unconscionable but she doesn't have a conscience… She does not deserve to have a voice."
Fellow TV writer Carina Adly MacKenzie posted several tweets about Finch's profile and the lies she was told. "She says she started the lie because after she healed from her knee surgery, the friends who had been taking care of her through her recovery went quiet, and she didn't like that," MacKenzie tweeted. "So she never let it get quiet ever again. Instead, we got to shoulder worry, guilt, trauma."
Vampire Diaries writer Matthew D'Ambrosio tweeted about the interview, "Again, for the record, we all thought she was DYING OF CANCER. Sorry if I don't buy a redemption arc dictated from her quaint Topanga Canyon front porch."