A young medical resident resists pressure from hospital administrators to discharge an elderly woman exhibiting vague yet disturbing symptoms. Eventually succumbing to the wishes of his superiors, the doctor reluctantly sends his patient home. Soon thereafter, the woman dies.
In Implant, F. Paul Wilson confronts the current trend in medical care in which treatment decisions are increasingly dictated, not by what is best for the needs of the individual patients, but by hospital and political bureaucrats primarily concerned with impersonally imposed guidelines designed to curtail expenses. In the course of this novel, Wilson also dissects Congressional committees which listen more to the the self-serving prattle of incompetent, non-practicing doctors than to those who face the gritty, often messy details of daily hospital life.
Yet Wilson holds even good doctors partially responsible for their plight. The unpleasant reality of today's society requires that concerned physicians step forward and become political activists in order to defend the integrity of their profession. Only in such a fashion do they have any hope of resisting and overturning the destructive regulations fencing them in. Abandoning the political arena to the hacks and power-grabbers will only ensure the defeat of pro-freedom approaches to health care.
Implant's protagonist is Dr. Gina Panzella -- a young woman determined to accept the challenge of taking the reins of her life into her own hands. Though it costs her in terms of friendships and ease of life, she seeks to alter the status quo by becoming a staff member on the (fictional) Joint Committee on Medical Ethics and Practice Guidelines. In doing so, she must counter the opposition of her mentor and employer, Dr.Duncan Lathram.
Lathram is a plastic surgeon who refuses to treat any patient using government regulated and/or financed insurance to pay for his services. Because of his discretion, extraordinary skill, and "exorbitantly" high fees, Dr. Lathram attracts many influential patients from the Washington scene who desire to project a younger, more active facade for their constituents and colleagues.
When a number of these prominent patients begin suffering inexplicable and seemingly random accidents, the book's suspense and mystery ratchet into high gear. In the process of uncovering the truth about Dr. Lathram and his activities, Gina finds her own career and life in jeopardy from both her mentor and the authorities.
Author Wilson is a (pleasant) anomaly on today's best-seller scene. A medical doctor and a self-styled libertarian, Wilson got his start writing science fiction stories. From there, he moved on to a highly successful series of horror/thriller novels beginning with The Keep (which Hollywood transformed into a movie). Most recently, he has dipped into his other career for inspiration and concentrated on medical thrillers with a philosophical bent. His previous novel, The Select, dealt with the question of what constitutes ethical medical research.
In Implant, Wilson has created appealing characters in Gina Panzella and the FBI agent -- Gerry Canney -- who comes to trust and befriend her. As the reader learns the sad reasons behind Dr. Lathram's intense hatred of government involvement in the medical field, he can sympathize -- perhaps even empathize -- with the surgeon's tragic situation...even if the doctor's clever scheme for exacting his revenge (justice?) must ultimately be rejected.
For Freeman readers seeking a good, suspenseful read combined with that rarity in best-selling novels, an argument for more freedom, F. Paul Wilson's Implant will not disappoint.