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Dr. Peter Werner Ernst is an internal medicine resident at a major hospital's intensive care unit. He functions on eight hours of sleep for every three shifts at work. Overseeing the care of eight patients, Dr. Ernst's job is to keep death at bay--at least until the day shift comes on, and any potential death goes on someone else's record.

When Felicia Potter enters the ward to visit her comatose father, Dr. Ernst sees the opportunity to ...
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Critical Care: A Novel

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Dr. Peter Werner Ernst is an internal medicine resident at a major hospital's intensive care unit. He functions on eight hours of sleep for every three shifts at work. Overseeing the care of eight patients, Dr. Ernst's job is to keep death at bay--at least until the day shift comes on, and any potential death goes on someone else's record.

When Felicia Potter enters the ward to visit her comatose father, Dr. Ernst sees the opportunity to spice up his grim routine with a little romance. What he cannot see is how his relationship with the young attractive model will call into question his integrity, his dedication to his career, and just how far he will go for the sake of his lust.

Hailed by The Boston Herald as "a masterpiece, " this powerful debut novel follows in the tradition of the bestseller Intensive Care--as a young doctor struggles with issues of life, death, sex, and his conscience at a major metropolitan hospital.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The often macabre world of high-tech dying seems all too real in this provocative, sardonic first novel about an intensive care unit where terminally ill patients hooked up to machines are kept alive in impersonal surroundings at frightful expense, often against their will. Using incredibly poor judgment, sleep-deprived Dr. Peter Werner Ernst, a second-year medical resident, becomes romantically entangled with Felicia Potter, the daughter of a patient who's been in a coma for months. Felicia is an air-head fashion model and a tremendous user, whose desire to pull the plug on her father is linked to a vicious family squabble over his estate. Dooling, a lawyer who once worked as a respiratory therapist in intensive care units, makes riveting use of the legal details when cynical Dr. Ernst gets dragged into a lawsuit. Although he sometimes overdoes attempts at sexual humor and surreal phantasmagoric fantasies, his handling of the medical satire is gut-wrenchingly accurate, authentically frightening and certainly timely. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This novel moves between the extremely vivid realities of a hospital's intensive care unit to the surreal dreaming of terminally ill patients. It describes the hospital setting from the viewpoint of a young resident, Peter Werner Ernst. Ernst is caught up in many crises, including a legal battle between two daughters who are fighting for control of their father's money. One daughter wants to end his life support systems immediately so that she can inherit his fortune. The other daughter wants to prolong his life for a few months so that the fortune will fall to her. Through their manipulations, Ernst faces the decision of whether to let the man live or die. Detailed descriptions of the frenetic hospital activity make this exciting to read. Recommended for popular fiction collections.-- Kathy Armendt Sorci, IIT Re search Inst., Annapolis, Md.
Harper Barnes
A scathingly funny black comedy…almost impossible to put down.
—St. Louis Post—Dispatch
Beryl Leiff Benderly
A bitter and disturbing, though often very funny, first novel with a sensibility that Dr. Strangelove fans will recognize.
The Washington Post Book World
Colette Bachand-Wood
Dooling demonstrates a fresh talent for storytelling and clean, clever writing…His command of the medical and legal professions make him a writer worth reading.
Boston Sunday Herald
Kirkus Reviews
Sardonic, often harrowing look at the American way of life- support by a writer so thoroughly in control it's hard to believe this is a first novel. A stunning debut. Dr. Werner Ernst, the type who knows (and prefers to ignore) an ethical dilemma when he sees one, would rather be reading great books and chasing women than working all night as second-year resident on an intensive care unit. Constantly exhausted, what he most desires is sleep—as unattainable for him as death is for the hopeless (but well-insured) cases on life-support. Against a nightmarish high-tech backdrop, burned-out staff members exchange insults, refer to patients by bed numbers (never names), and sometimes perform acts of secret compassion. Meanwhile, terminal patients have eschatological hallucinations; Bed Five's self- involved daughter sets out to seduce the more-than-willing Werner and—raising questions of her real motive—asks him to block a procedure that may prolong her comatose father's life. Dooling's unflinching portrayal of suffering, dehumanization, and modern medical technique is almost unbearably painful to read but near impossible to put down. Cruel exaggerations don't detract from authenticity: details—whether about hospitals, lawsuits, or fashion models' makeup—are stunningly accurate. In lesser hands, the climactic scene—a conversation with a nun—might have seemed forced, but the metaphysical undercurrents that are skillfully evoked throughout the novel make it work. A powerhouse for those strong enough in spirit and constitution to read it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429987592
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 6/15/1996
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,302,061
  • File size: 295 KB

Meet the Author

Richard Dooling is the author of White Man's Grave (Picador), a 1994 National Book Award finalist, and Blue Streak: Swearing, Free Speech, and Sexual Harassment. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, and Story. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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