IN THE NIGHT SEASON by Christiaan Barnard


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Famous Dr. Barnard's latest operation is to transplant himself from surgeon to storyteller--and the prognosis is not nearly as ghastly as one might have feared. During the first half of this well-intentioned book, as ethical hero Dr. Charles de la Porte faces a malpractice suit and rampant ostracism because he decided not to tell patient Janice Case (a fellow M.D.) that she has inoperable cancer, events move along professionally enough in the South African urban setting--albeit with rather too much ponderous pondering (""Why did the background to his own agony have to be the sounds of riots in which children were made the victims of two sets of intransigence?""). Unfortunately, when a flashback takes over to reveal Charles' secret past involvement with Janice, so do the clichès: Janice, young rebel reed-student type, lured stodgy but infatuated Charles into helping her hide a black fugitive from the pigs--and Charles' jealous wife died in a car crash, maybe suicidally. Back in the present, Barnard stitches in his second Big Moral-Medicine Question--euthanasia--as dying Janice silently begs Charles to pull her plug (he does so, then changes his mind, too late). The familiar issues here--South-African political as well as medical--are handled with careful balance, but Dr. Barnard has nothing remarkable to add; perhaps he should have applied his modicum of narrative ability to the moral ramifications of heart transplants, about which less has been written and about which he probably knows something we don't.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1978
Publisher: Prentice-Hall