In the examples afforded in the show, Dr. Hunt (Cristina's boyfriend) got Dr. Teddy Altman to instruct Cristina in cardio surgery. Teddy is a brilliant teacher and Christina feels alive again under her tutelage. The problem is that Teddy is in love with Dr. Hunt and she confesses this to Cristina. Cristina decides she would rather learn surgery from Teddy than continue her relationship with Hunt. However, going further than that, she shockingly says, "You can have him." She'll give Hunt to Teddy if Teddy remains to teach her surgery.
In another scene, a professional opera singer is told that he has cancer and the doctors may need to remove his lung. He says he would rather die. He explains why in a very moving soliloquy:
- I want my lung. [pause] Dr. Altman. I’m big. Too big. I don’t fit in airplane seats and as Jeff is always telling me, my feelings don’t always fit the situation. If my food is overcooked at a restaurant, I get enraged. I want to kill the waiter. But I don’t. I politely ask him to take my meal back and bring it to me the way I asked for it. I spend my days making myself smaller, more acceptable. And that’s okay, because at night, when I go onstage, I get to experience the world the way I feel it. Indescribable rage and unbearable sadness and huge passion. At night, onstage, I get to kill the waiter and dance on his grave. And if I can’t do that, if all I have is left is a life of making myself smaller, then I don’t want to live. I don’t. [Turns to his lover] And believe me, honey, you don’t want me to live.
In contrast, Teddy tells Hunt what Cristina said- the fact that she told Teddy that she would rather Teddy took Hunt as her boyfriend and remained as her teacher at Seattle Grace. The following scene takes place afterwards:
- Cristina: Where have you been? You just disappeared. I left you, like, 10 messages. [he starts toward her] Are you drunk?
Hunt: [He kisses her fiercely.]
Cristina: [pushes him away] Wait…what? What, what?
Hunt: What you said. [takes a deep breath] You think that surgery’s going to make you feel, you think that a successful career is going to make you happy. You think you know things, you know things and nothing else matters. No one else matters. People do matter. I matter. We [nods his head affirmatively, breathes for a moment] we matter. [exhales] You don’t get to toss me aside. [stares straight into her eyes] I won’t let you.
Meredith Voiceover: We have to damage the healthy flesh…
[Cristina tears up, is crying, kisses Hunt.]
In order to expose the unhealthy.
According to Judaism, we are not permitted to take the attitude the opera singer takes. If I had no hands and couldn't write anymore, I wouldn't be permitted to kill myself.
But I think we can all understand the place he's coming from.