When Nancy Greenly (Lois Chiles) suffers irreparable brain damage after a routine operation at Boston Memorial Hospital, her close friend, Dr Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold), wants to know the cause.
In an unauthorised search of hospital records – and despite stern warnings from her boss, Chief of Surgery Dr George Harris (Richard Widmark), to stop snooping – she uncovers an alarmingly high number of terminal comas in healthy young patients.
Meanwhile, she receives very little support from her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Dr Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas), a self-absorbed chief resident who condescendingly belittles Susan’s theories, agreeing with Dr Harris’ appraisal that Susan has succumbed to grief and stress.
Susan eventually finds her sanity and then her life under threat when her investigations uncover a medical conspiracy between Boston Memorial and a mysterious facility called the Jefferson Institute to send healthy patients into irreversible comas, suspend them from the ceiling (to prevent bedsores of all things) and then steal their organs for sale to the highest bidder (a heart is sold for $70,000).
Before long, a hired killer (Lance LeGault) is chasing after Susan to keep her from sharing the explosive truth she’s discovered.
The mystery unfolds amid the antiseptic glare of modern institutions with little style, imagination, or humour. Dr Frankenstein, where are you?
It’s doctor-turned-novelist Michael Crichton’s assured sense of creepy paranoia within the absorbing central mystery that gives an extra disturbing edge to the hospital horrors.
Watch for future stars Ed Harris, Tom Selleck, and Rip Torn in small roles. And please think twice about seeing this film if you are due to enter hospital for an operation!!
Dr Susan Wheeler
Dr Mark Bellows
Dr George A Harris