Cast: Genevieve Bujold, Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley, Rip Torn, Richard Widmark, Lois Chiles, Harry Rhodes, Gary Barton, Frank Downing, Richard Doyle, Alan Haufrect, Lance Le Gault, Michael MacRae, Betty McGuire, Tom Selleck, Charles Siebert, William Wintersole, Ernest Anderson, Harry Basch, Maury Cooper, Joni Palmer, Joanna Kerns, Kay Cole, Tom Borut, Philip G. Brooks, Benny Rubin, David Hollander, Ed Harris, Dick Balduzzi
Dr. Susan Wheeler (Bujold) and Dr. Mark Bellows (Douglas) are lovers and resident physicians at Boston Memorial Hospital. They have a rather rocky relationship, due in part to her assertiveness and independence, and his focus on achieving his goal of becoming the next Chief Resident in surgery. At dance class, Susan’s close friend Nancy Greenly (Chiles) tells her that she is having a selective abortion at Boston Memorial. Nancy’s operation begins normally, but briefly her blood pressure drops and the anesthetist and the surgeon, Dr. Richards (Brooks), notice symptoms of a heart arrest. Nancy’s condition goes back to normal and the operation is completed, apparently successfully, but she does not wake up. Mark overhears other physicians talking about Nancy’s status and informs Susan that her friend is in a coma and has been transferred to the intensive care unit. Susan rushes to Nancy’s bedside. Confused, wanting to deny her friend’s death, Susan seeks to understand how a healthy 28 year-old woman can die in such a way. She scrutinizes Nancy’s medical chart and sees it’s as Mark has told her, a routine operation with an unexplained anesthetic reaction. Except Nancy was tissue-typed, which is very unusual for a routine D&C, and no physician authorized the special lab work. Unable to get Nancy’s death off her mind, Susan persuades a computer analyst to search for information about Nancy’s tissue-typing and finds that the records indicate it was ordered by a computer. Further inquiries reveal that in the past year Boston Memorial discharged 240 patients with a diagnosis of coma, ten of them young and in general good health when admitted. Susan is summoned to the office of the Chief of Surgery, Dr. George Harris (Widmark), who tells her that her unauthorized access to private patient records is illegal and jeopardizes her continued employment. Dr. Harris lets Susan go with a stern warning, but insists she see a psychiatrist. Mark sees in Susan’s zealousness a threat to his aspirations of becoming Chief Resident. Susan tries to cool off, but cannot help but notice that a patient, Sean Murphy (Selleck), in for knee surgery, ends up in a coma after another unexplained anesthetic reaction. Sensing that something odd is going on, Susan continues her investigation and discovers that the young patients admitted for elective surgery and ending up in a coma were operated on in Operating Room 8. Despite warnings from Mark, Dr. Harris, and the chief of anesthesiology, Dr. George (Torn), Susan surreptitiously pursues her investigation and learns that selected Boston Memorial coma cases are being transferred to a place called the Jefferson Institute, a large modern facility run by Nurse Emerson (Ashley). Susan is horrified when she learns the secret function of the Institute. Her life in danger, she has little time in which to find someone to confide in that will believe her and help her stop a powerful and entrenched conspiracy. Based on Robin Cook’s novel of the same name.