Dr. Cowans: Anesthesia's the easiest job in the world until something goes wrong. It's 99% boredom and 1% scared-shitless panic.
Dr. George A. Harris: Our society faces momentous decisions. Decisions about the right to die. About abortion. About terminal illness, prolonged coma, transplantation. Decisions about life and death. But society isn't deciding. Congress isn't deciding. The courts aren't deciding. Religion isn't deciding. Why? Because society is leaving it up to us, the experts. The doctors.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: You're crazy.
Dr. George A. Harris: Americans spend $125 billion a year on health. More than defense. Because Americans believe in medical care. These great hospital complexes are the cathedrals of our age. Billions of dollars, thousands of beds. A whole nation of sick people turning to us for help.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: You, you ought to see somebody.
Dr. George A. Harris: They're children, Sue. They trust us. We can't tell them everything. Our job is to make things easier for them. I'm sure you agree.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: You're killing people.
Dr. George A. Harris: We must always take the long view. Not of the individual, but of society as a whole. Because medicine is now a great social force. The individual is too small.
Nurse: Doctors make the worst patients. They know too much.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: Jim, I know it sounds silly but, supposing you wanted to put people into a coma, what would you do?
Jim: You mean on purpose?
Pathology Resident #2: Diethyl para-amino tannadol.
Jim: No, no, leaves a serum trace.
Pathology Resident #2: Yeah, if you know to look for it.
Jim: But it also peaks alk phos. That's a real giveaway. Besides, who can get tannadol?
Pathology Resident #2: Well, then you can use paradine.
Jim: No, it has a taste. We'd all make great murderers. I mean, who knows better about murder than a pathologist?
Pathology Resident #2: It sure keeps my wife in line.
Jim: First rule of crime: Keep It Simple. What's simple? Carbon Monoxide.
Pathology Resident #2: Boring.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: Carbon Monoxide?
Jim: Sure, it's perfect. Anesthetist feeds the patient some carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. It's colorless and makes the blood very red so the surgeon doesn't notice anything funny. But the brain dies from lack of oxygen. End of operation - the patient doesn't wake up.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: No other effects?
Pathology Resident #2: Sure, other effects. Cardiac irritability.
Jim: Which this case had.
Pathology Resident #2: You know, it'd be much better to block the neuro-muscular junction with succinylcholine. Now that's a nice murder.
Jim: Yeah, who's gonna do it?
Pathology Resident #2: Well, who's gonna feed you carbon monoxide?
Jim: That's the problem. Been about a dozen of these coma cases here in the last year. They're always different. Different case, different anesthetist, different operation. Hard to imagine it's murder.
Dr. Susan Wheeler: You did it.
[Put people in irreversible comas]
Dr. George A. Harris: No decision is easy, Sue. It only looks that way when you're young. When you're older, everything is complicated. There is no black and white, only gray.
Dr. George A. Harris: Somebody has to make these decisions. We can't wait around forever. If society won't decide, we'll decide. We'll make the hard decisions.
Dr. Cowans: Okay, Mrs. Greenly, it's time to wake up. Okay, Nancy? Mrs. Greenly? Wake up. Nance, can you give me a cough, please? Nancy?
[checks her eyes]
Dr. Cowans: Oh, Jesus Christ! Her pupils are fixed and dilated.
Dr. Richards: What?
Dr. Cowans: The pupils. They're fixed. Dilated.
Dr. Richards: Oh, my God!
Dr. Susan Wheeler: Your days are always the same. Just politics, that's all. Who said what to whom. Who's rising, who's falling. Who's made a good move, a bad move. Politics!
morning radio host: [on the car radio as Susan drives up to the Boston Memorial Hospital where she works] Good morning. It's 6:00 am on a beautiful New England morning in Boston and these are the top stories: Mayor White's assistant, Kep Maloney, had met with the Boston redevelopment authority over the continuing controversy on the Charlestown Heights project. Police have arraigned John McMannus on $23 million dollar grant and bribery charges in connection of the Mystic River extension. High out of court...