A Case of Need: A Novel by Michael Crichton


Reviewed by Allen Hott

A Case of NeedAn interesting (though somewhat boring book in places) about a young girl who dies or is killed from a botched abortion. At least that is the idea of A Case of Need as we begin working our way through the story. John Berry, a practicing pathologist is alerted to the fact that, Art Lee, an obstetrician friend of his has been arrested. Supposedly Lee performed the abortion that had ended up killing Karen Randall.

It seems that she was brought to Lee by her uncle, Peter Randall, and she requested the procedure. Lee claimed that he told her she was too far along (four months) in her pregnancy and that an abortion could not be performed safely. He says she left and then later died from a botched abortion.

After hearing Lee’s story, Berry gets somewhat crossways with the police, especially a Captain Peterson, when he decides to do some investigating himself. First off he does not believe Lee did it and secondly he realizes that the Randalls are not only an influential family but also a group of well-known doctors that gets their way, one way or another.

Berry is told that the girl’s mother says that she had been told by Karen that Dr. Lee had performed the abortion. As the story goes forward it appears that the girl had had several abortions performed by someone previously but no one is sure who did them. Strangely enough Berry does find out that Lee, along with other obstetricians in the area; perform abortions on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly, according to Lee, they are legally performed on older married women who have decided that they do not want any more children.

The story continues with Berry deeply involved in the investigation and he finds out more and more things that appear to be clearing Lee. It involves many visits to hospitals, clinics, morgues and the like. It appears that the abortion business is booming and many different people are involved in it.

Various aspects of medicine are brought out throughout the book. Many interesting aspects of emergency response to cases of bleeding. What happens to the blood as it does escape and is “spread” around the emergency room? How is it tested and by whom?

The entire story digs very deeply into hospitals, medical providers, and medicine itself. There are many, many footnotes throughout the reading to help the reader understand the why, what, and how things are done in the world of medicine and especially in the emergency area.

Berry finds out much and perhaps too much because as he is working on the case, collecting evidence he has some entanglements which end up physically affecting him. Interesting read but the reader must be willing to go around or perhaps suck up some information that to me didn’t necessarily belong in the story. But I would read it again!