Jane M. Orient, MD and Linda J. Wright
(173 pp., $5.00, ISBN:
0-9665778-4-1, Peduncle Press, Waldport, OR, 2000,
e-book format only available at http://www.janeorient.com.)
Neomorts, a new novel by the dynamic duo of Dr. Jane Orient and Linda J. Wright, is about standing by your own morals and judgment even when it conflicts with government standards. Although written as a medical mystery/thriller, this book examines serious issues that cut at the very heart of medicine. It pushes moral and professional rationalization to limits that are strikingly similar to those being approached in medicine today. The fictional account opens and proceeds rapidly with the passage of the Organ Transplantation Rights Bill. This new law guaranteed equal access to free organ transplants for all citizens but resulted in people relinquishing their rights to their own bodies in favor of government-determined "societal good." Suddenly, government mandated wealth transfer programs took on a whole new dimension --- or as one of the characters puts it --- "If someone else can make better use of a liver than its original owner does, why shouldn't society transfer the wealth?" Quality assurance is measured by and funding tied to the number of harvested organs in the government-run hospital. But, with all "free" services comes the dilemma of what to do with the increased demand for these "public resources?" How can government possibly increase the supply of organ donors? And, what happens when the utilization review committee doesn't approve one's transplant operation?
For those citizens who figured out the mystery of the government approved Federal Transplant Registry hospital, the answer to those questions was clear --- Saul's mobile repair shop. Despite all government efforts to kill it, underground free market medicine survives clandestinely. In groundertown, Dr. Saul Goldsmith and physician apprentice Zane Gabriel run a 50-bed hospital hidden within an old Safeway warehouse and perform surgery for cold cash in a converted walk-in freezer. No quality of life committees determining worthiness to live or die, no government protocols or clinical pathways to follow, just down to earth medicine practiced for the sole benefit of the individual patient.
Meanwhile, the government has discovered a new cost-saving method to meet the increased demand for organs --- a process supported by a very confidential funding source. Requiring citizens to report to government hospitals for their annual Risk Assessment Profile (RAP) seems to be key to the plan, but in an environment where government also controls the press, how can it possibly be investigated and exposed?
Jenna Dorn, is a reporter for the government-controlled newspaper, the MetroReport. She's trapped in a propoganda-generating job that she hates, but like everyone else, she has to make a living. In her spare time, she pursues the truth through her investigative articles in the underground newspaper known as The Eye. Her investigations take her into the underground world of medicine and into the darkest corners of the Federal Transplant Registry. She learns about the peculiar beliefs of strange men dressed in brown robes who are members of the Society of the Redeemed. Members of this unique society are strongly opposed to the immoral confiscation of internal organs by government and are often seen holding protest rallies in front of the government hospital. Teaming up with physician apprentice extraordinaire Zane Gabriel, she closely examines the workings of the government-run hospital --- perhaps a little too closely for her own good. But, will exposing the facts be enough? Even Jenna Dorn isn't sure --- "I used to believe that people would make the right decisions if you just presented them with the facts. Now I realize how naive I was."
Neomorts is a masterpiece of intertwined stories that lead the reader down the path of realistic intrigue and suspense. You may think you know what a neomort is, but rest assured you cannot possibly know what it is and where all the twists and turns will lead...until the end. For those who enjoy a medical thriller with freedom at its heart, you don't want to miss reading this one.
Reviewed by Lawrence R. Huntoon, MD, PhD
Lawrence R. Huntoon, MD, PhD is president of AAPS and a practicing neurologist in Jamestown, New York.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(4):147-148. Copyright
© 2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).