DOC-IN-A-BOX by Robert A. Burton


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A doctor's fall and return to grace against a backdrop of medical and legal corruption: a neurologist's heavy-handed fiction debut. Los Angeles plastic-surgeon Webb Smith starts out with some ideals, using his skills to repair cleft palates, but he's soon specializing in cosmetic surgery, money, and womanizing. In an act of confused charity, he secretly treats the cleaning-lady's drugdealer son for a gunshot wound and then hits professional and personal rock-bottom: he is arrested; his wife leaves; his medical license is suspended; his best friend's cancer is pronounced incurable; and Webb starts work on the nightshift at a crassly venal walk-in clinic (Instantcare), where no one checks his background. Once there, he practices skilled and humane medicine (even when stoned on marijuana), and proves what a good guy he is: he shows personal concern for an abused child and lets his dying friend move in with him (even giving him the better bedroom). Webb also begins an affair with Jessica, a talented, beautiful (and apparently traumatized) jazz pianist. In an upbeat ending, Webb rediscovers the satisfactions of healing; Jessica's career takes off; the medical system (after some stumbling) saves the abused child's life while the mother--a drug-using hooker--agrees to attend parenting classes. Details of medical arrogance and greed are nothing new, though some readers may enjoy hearing it from a physician; fans of medical writing will appreciate the clarity of the doctoring scenes.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Soho--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux