Error In Diagnosis
A medical thriller by Mason Lucas, MD
Book review by Jules Brenner
Berkeley, released 8/4/15, 432 pp., $9.99
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This medical thriller suggests that a baffling and deadly illness of epidemic proportions may be confined to people of rather precise description: victims are limited to American women who are pregnant.

They're calling it Gestational Neuropathic Syndrome (GNS) and it's spreading like a forest fire while its cause and mode of transfer isn't known. It comes to medical school Chief Neurologist Dr. Jack Wyatt's attention when he's called in from vacation to consult on the case of his best friend's wife Tess, who has shown the first symptoms: memory loss and confusion. This call to duty is far more important than another day on a beach in the West Indies. Jack is on the next plane to do his utmost to save her, but time is the enemy.

By the time the cases have risen to over 800 and Tess is barely hanging on to life, a drama develops between Wyatt and dean Hollis Sinclair, an overbearing man who has more or less jumped to the conclusion that an FDA-approved drug called Vitracide is the cure. He pushes it as though he owns stock in the company (this is never affirmed).

Wyatt gets caught up in a competition by taking the more scientific approach with his team of level-headed scientist-doctors and colleagues chasing down the causes of something they'd never seen before. With a process of elimination approach, Wyatt's side makes studies of the sick, looking for patterns, running tests, etc. even as he contends against Sinclair's certainty.

It's an either/or decision by the official sanctioning agencies and someone is making a wrong diagnosis even as the number of cases approaches 10,000 with a high percentage of death. The fate of thousands more hang in the balance.

The author, who is a practicing pediatric surgeon, succeeds in making his story read like a tense crime novel with the count of cases ticking up at the head of every significant chapter as a device for suspense. He puts Wyatt in a medical detective role, working under pressure to head off what could become an even greater disaster.

Lucas depicts the medical/hospital/competitive culture with authoritative expertise, giving the story the feel of accuracy in the key relationships and the supposed deadly disease in the the context of political tension within the profession.

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