Dr. Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold) is a surgeon at Boston Memorial Hospital. Her friend Nancy Greenly (Lois Chiles) is pregnant and is having an abortion. The procedure being done is referred to as a D and C. Susan assures her that the procedure is routine and that everything will be fine. Something goes wrong during the surgery and Nancy ends up in a coma. Looking through the patient’s chart Susan sees nothing out of order. The only unusual thing is that Nancy was tissue typed.
The tissue typing lab says that the test was randomly selected by the computer as a quality check. Susan manages to get a list of all patients in the last year that ended up in a coma. Of them, ten were young people in good health that were admitted for minor surgery. The head of the hospital, Dr. George Harris (Richard Widmark) finds out about the unauthorized computer entry that generated the list. He calls her in to his office and reads her the riot act. He threatens, nicely, to fire her if she breaks the rules again.
Two days later another patient, Sean Murphy (Tom Selleck), who was in for a simple knee surgery, comes out in a coma. When Susan tries to look further into the reason that now twelve people have been affected, she comes up against hospital bureaucrats. The only thing she has figured out that links the twelve people is that their surgeries all happened in operating room 8.
Susan is approached by a maintenance guy, Kelly (Frank Downing), who tells her that he knows how the comas were done. Kelly is killed by a hitman, Vince (Lance LeGault). Susan also learns that the coma patients ended up transferred to the Jefferson Institute. The Jefferson Institute is a chronic care facility that specializes in coma cases. Susan decides to visit the institute and ends up in the middle of a conspiracy to sell human organs on the black market, but who is in on the conspiracy is the question. Talking to the wrong person could get her killed.
“Coma” was released in 1978 and was directed by Michael Crichton. It is an American mystery thriller with some horror undertones. The film was based on the 1977 book by Robin Cook. In 2012 the book was made into a two-part television miniseries for the A&E television network.
This is one of my favorite movies. It’s a long movie but fascinating and at times a real nail-biter. There is also a disturbing vibe to it. Seeing people suspended from the ceiling by wires is spooky. The movie also sports some really great actors and acting. It is a tight medical thriller that sucks you in and creeps you out. I highly recommend it.
“Coma” managed to do for hospitals the same thing “Jaws” did for water. Some believe the film caused a drop in organ donations. It is also said that a hospital in Tampa, Fl had to remove the number 8 from one of its surgical rooms due to patient complaints.
The building used for the exterior views of the Jefferson Institute is the Mimecast building, a cyber security company, located at 191 Spring Street in Lexington, MA. It was originally the Xerox headquarters.