Author(s) Robin Cook
Publication date 1977
Susan Wheeler is the protagonist of the novel. She is an attractive 23-year-old third-year medical student working as a trainee at Boston Memorial Hospital. Susan, along with four other students—George, Harvey, Geoffrey, and Paul—takes rounds in surgery rooms and ICUs for making post-treatment notations on the health of patients. Mark Bellows, a surgery resident in the hospital, is the instructor and supervisor of this group.
The book is a journey into the inner workings of a hospital.
There are two patients, Nancy Greenly and Sean Berman, who mysteriously went into comas immediately after their operations. These incidents were attributed to complications within their surgeries due to anesthesia.
Nancy Greenly became comatose when her brain did not receive sufficient oxygen during surgery. Similarly, Sean Berman, a young man in his 30s in good physical condition, underwent a scheduled knee operation. Despite the operation's success, Sean failed to regain consciousness. Medically, the odds for such occurrences are one in 100,000; however, such odds seemed resolutely higher at the Boston Memorial Hospital.
Baffled by the comas of these two patients, Susan decides to investigate the mystery behind these peculiar events and of other recent coma victims. Susan discovers the oxygen line to Operating Room 8 has been tampered with to cause the patients carbon monoxide poisoning during surgery and, hence, brain death. At the same time Susan develops a brief, but intimate, relationship with Bellows and discusses her findings with him. After unraveling further details, and evading pursuit by a man hired to kill her, Susan is led to the Jefferson Institute.
The institute is hailed as an intensive care facility designed to cut down on heavy medical costs. All patients who are declared brain dead or "vegetables" are referred to the institute. Here, she...