What goes on at Mercy Hospital, something of a misnomer, shouldn't, for the most part, as from service to service an increasing incidence of botched, gratuitous, or just negligent cases shows up. But Mercy has always been controlled by a staff whose orders are as unquestionable as papal encyclicals--doctors like old Prout with affiliations going back three generations. Because he did not perform the necessary vascular surgery two years ago, the man on the table comes to a quick end now--an aneurysm. Then there's the delivery of a monstrously malformed child--should he be allowed to live? And, worst of all, a mangled procedure which leads to an almost fatal kidney obstruction and a life attached to a dialysis machine. All this status quo is threatened by a new, enlightened cooperative clinic. Much of the story is tied together by aging Halpern, a Jew, whose son now defects from their joint practice. When Hirschhorn permits himself emotion, as he does here, it's something of a running sore. But on the whole this offers some good bad medicine, a few words to tone up your vocabulary (meatus; bilateral orchiectomy), all of it scrub-suited for that readership as regular as your next check-up.