Feb. 16, 2012

“Royal Pains” Storyline Sheds Light on the Seriousness of Lupus

During the February 15, 2012 episode of the USA Network show, "Royal Pains," the character of Jack O'Malley, who was battling lupus, dies after experiencing serious health complications.

The story showcases the urgent need to take lupus very seriously, especially when the kidneys, heart or other major organ is affected.  Kidney failure, heart involvement, and overwhelming infections are among the leading causes of death due to lupus. 

The TV show’s plotline focused on Jack, a professional golfer who did not follow the doctor’s advice to obtain proper medical monitoring and treatment for his lupus.  To successfully manage the disease, it is critically important for all people with lupus to follow their doctor’s orders and take actions required to maintain good health.

The "Royal Pains" storyline calls attention to the debilitating and potentially fatal complications of lupus, including lupus-related kidney and heart disease.

Lupus-related kidney disease, called nephritis, is caused by inflammation in the kidneys, which makes them unable to properly remove waste from the blood or control the amount of fluids in the body. Inflammation in the lining of the sac surrounding the heart, called pericarditis, can lead to pericardial effusion (the buildup of fluid around the heart within the sac lining) or pericardial tamponade (so much fluid builds up that the heart no longer can pump).

In the "Royal Pains" episode, the character's death is due to complications of sepsis, the buildup of toxins in the blood.  Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.  While sepsis can happen to anyone, it's most common and most dangerous in people who are elderly or who have weakened immune systems.  The strong immunosuppressive drugs used in some cases of lupus to dampen the overactive immune system can make the patient more susceptible to infections.

Advances in research and treatment are helping to identify and manage life-threatening complications of lupus, and medications are available that can help keep the disease under control.  Most people with lupus will not experience the extreme and sudden decline in health as depicted on "Royal Pains."

However, lupus remains a very unpredictable and potentially life-threatening disease. People with lupus must always take the disease seriously, seek professional medical advice from a doctor who specializes in lupus, and follow their doctor’s instructions precisely.

The LFA thanks the writers, producers, and actors of "Royal Pains." and USA Network management for bringing greater attention and awareness to lupus.  A primetime television program that features a significant storyline with a character who has lupus is giant step forward toward increasing public understanding of lupus and its devastating impact on individuals and families.


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In an episode of the USA Network show, Royal Pains, the character of Jack O'Malley is not following his doctor’s directions for treatment of lupus nephritis.