cover image Critical Care

Critical Care

Richard Dooling. William Morrow & Company, $20 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10926-4

The often macabre world of high-tech dying seems all too real in this provocative, sardonic first novel about an intensive care unit where terminally ill patients hooked up to machines are kept alive in impersonal surroundings at frightful expense, often against their will. Using incredibly poor judgment, sleep-deprived Dr. Peter Werner Ernst, a second-year medical resident, becomes romantically entangled with Felicia Potter, the daughter of a patient who's been in a coma for months. Felicia is an air-head fashion model and a tremendous user, whose desire to pull the plug on her father is linked to a vicious family squabble over his estate. Dooling, a lawyer who once worked as a respiratory therapist in intensive care units, makes riveting use of the legal details when cynical Dr. Ernst gets dragged into a lawsuit. Although he sometimes overdoes attempts at sexual humor and surreal phantasmagoric fantasies, his handling of the medical satire is gut-wrenchingly accurate, authentically frightening and certainly timely. (Feb.)